Academy Awards monochromatic at heart
Political stances bleed into red carpet, acceptance speeches
This time Kanye isn’t the one calling B.S. The 87th Academy Awards is being called the “whitest” the show has been since 1998. The categories for both male and female leading and supporting roles were completely filled with white people — for the first time in years, there were no minority nominees. Similarly, there were no female nominees in the musical original score and directing categories.
It is unlikely that the Academy is actively trying to snub minority actors and actresses, even though that may be what it looks like on the surface. The problem is that the entertainment industry is not giving minorities the opportunity to shine through in roles that were created without race in mind.
When minorities are cast for movies that have been deemed Oscar-worthy, they are usually stereotypical roles. The black actors and actresses that have won Oscars in the past traditionally win them for roles that fulfilled stereotypes: Lupita Nyong'o as a slave, Hattie McDaniel as a maid and Halle Berry as a struggling, single mother. But talent has no color. If an actor, actress, director or musician has the talent, they should not be denied the chance to win awards that praise their talent. The sentiment is obvious. But when movies like Gone Girl and Selma are snubbed for nominations, it makes everyone question what the Academy’s standards are and why. The movies that allow minorities to showcase their artistic talents are not the types of films that typically get nominated for the Academy Awards. Movies that are of the comedy, action or horror genres are not typically nominated for awards and whether coincidently or not, these are the movies that often showcase minorities.
The 87th Academy Awards also called into question the way women are being treated not only in film, but in America as well. Patricia Arquette, who won the Oscar for best actress in a supporting role, used her speech to advance the fight for equal pay. Her words elicited cheers from Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez as she dedicated the speech to any woman that has given birth and said, “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.” While Arquette later botched her sentiments, expressing that gays and colored people have their rights and now it’s time to fight for women, she does have a point. An awards acceptance speech is the most unexpected yet opportune time to make a political statement and alongside Arquette, Reese Witherspoon did exactly that, just not on stage.
While on the red carpet, the “Wild” actress called attention to the social media slogan #askhermore. The campaign is designed to get red carpet hosts to ask women about the roles they’ve played and the movies they have been in, the sole reason they are at the awards show to being with — not just their nails and dresses. Assuming that women should only discuss their outward appearance is archaic. The red carpet show was likely created to showcase what everyone is wearing, but if men get asked about their roles in filmmaking, why can’t women?
The choice is simple: do Americans want awards shows to represent society and entertainment as a whole? If the answer is no, then the Academy and all other nominations boards can proceed with business as usual. But if the answer is yes, then changes need to be made to nomination processes and the people who are allowed to vote and nominate musicians, actors and actresses. It feels like America is ready to see minorities dominate the silver screen in important roles that transcend race, but the Academy just isn’t there yet. Without a Kanye-like figure calling them out for failing to give a nod to minorities, is there really a problem? Just like a tree falling in the woods with no one around to hear it, if no one calls on the Academy to change their practices, are they making a sound?