By Malik G.
With all of the controversy surrounding this years Oscars I figured it wouldn’t hurt to throw in my two cents. Honestly speaking I don’t think anyone should be surprised by the lack of color in this year’s list of nominees, given their history of omitting minorities. With the majority of Oscar voters being elderly Caucasian males, how often do you really expect people of color to win? Here are five things that the Oscars and Hollywood in general need to do in order to make things right.
5. More Nominations For Portrayals of Positivity
Under many circumstances a great villain can carry a movie more than a great hero. Despite this I feel that most actors of color are forced to play some sort of negative force just for the chance at an Academy Award. Whether it’s a dirty cop (Denzel in Training Day), an abusive mother (Monique in Precious), or a sadistic tyrant (Forest in The Last King of Scotland), the academy loves to see black people play the bad guy. And while black actors/actresses have been portrayed as a source of positivity, it is rarely from a position of power. It’s almost like if we’re not winning for being the bad guy, we’re winning for being maids, slaves, and drug addicted musicians. I believe the reason for this year’s omissions was because of all the positivity coming from films with black casts, something the Oscars clearly doesn’t approve of.
4. More Roles For Black Oscar Winners
If there’s one pattern I’ve noticed in recent years, it’s that black Oscar winners don’t reap the same benefits as white Oscar winners. Winning an Academy Award is an enormous achievement, putting you in a tier of talent that most entertainers can only dream to reach. After receiving an Oscar, they are supposed to be the most sought after actor/actress in the business, as they have just been awarded the highest honor in their field. There is absolutely no reason that actors like Cuba Gooding Jr. or Monique should have issues finding roles coming off their phenomenal performances. Monique has even stated that finding work was anything but easy after winning her award. This is an unacceptable issue and one that needs fixing if actors and actresses of color stand any chance of winning in the future.
3. Be More Open-Minded When It Comes to Smaller, Independent Films
I get it, you’re an old white guy, what do you care about a rebellious rap group in the 1980s or a the son of a famous black boxer that once fought your childhood hero? But as a movie fan and especially as someone who has a say on who will be remembered in film history, being closed-minded is something that should not be allowed. Oscar voters need to be open to all types of film, not just the ones supported by large studios. Most movies with predominately black casts are independent films, made on a small budget, with little to no promotion. Does that mean that they don’t deserve to be recognized, even if they’re just as great as a big budget film? According to a friend this is the reason that the critically-acclaimed Netflix film “Beast of No Nation” was omitted. If you’re going to determine what films and actors go into movie history, the the academy should be comprised of people that are just as open-minded and insightful as the filmmakers they select.
2. Support Directors Of Color
Black directors are a very rare occurrence in this day and age of Hollywood, with only a handful being considered “Big Names”. Directors Ryan Coogler and F. Gary Gray had two of the biggest films this year, both critically and commercially, but failed to receive recognition from the Academy for their accomplishments. Even for all of the strides that Spike Lee has made in filmmaking, he has never won an Oscar for best director (and I’m not talking about that honorary Oscar he’s being awarded). To this day there has only been three black nominees in this category with no winners. Not taking anything from white directors but black directors deserve just as much recognition for their hard work and diligence. Filmmakers of color are highly outnumbered in Hollywood, and without the recognition from their peers and support from the studios they may eventually fade into obscurity, marking a sad day in entertainment.
1. Stop Making Yourselves Look Bad
No one likes to be perceived as racist, not even racists, and I believe the same goes for the Academy Awards. Hollywood, like almost everything in America, has a deep dark past in racism. With controversial films released in the early 1900s involving blackface and KKK propaganda, the movie industry has a lot of things they’d wish to forget. Well what better way to forget than by honoring the people you once shamed and humiliated. Now I’m not asking for affirmative action for black filmmakers but what I am asking for is to be treated with the same fairness and respect as any other movie released by Hollywood. At the end of the day doing this can only improve the image of both Hollywood and the Oscars. Accepting and recognizing filmmakers of color will finally change the way people perceive the Academy Awards and movie industry, allowing them to bury their dark pasts for good.
As a fan of movies I love it when great films are recognized for their achievements, no matter the race of those involved. The Oscars have for many years have not been about who won or who loss, but rather who was left out. In order for the Oscars and the movie industry in general to be as prestigious as people perceive them to be, they must first take a step back and look at themselves for what they really are. With all of the controversy surrounding this year’s awards, hopefully we will see a change in the years to come. A boy can dream.