With the recent release of the 2016 Oscar nominations, noticeably absent once again are people of color. For the second year in a row, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts failed to nominate a single person of color in any acting category. That is, out of 20 acting nominees, 100% are white.
After last year’s identical scene, there was major backlash from the public, leading to a diverse new class of members invited into the Academy who vote on the nominations and winners. The backlash also prompted the Academy president and many famous actors to call for diversification in the film industry’s hiring.
However, they are right back where they started.
In addition to the absence of acting nominees, the eight Best Picture nominations star predominantly white casts.
Straight Outta Compton, which follows hip-hop group N.W.A. as they released their first studio album, received substantial industry support. The film has received nominations from the NAACP Image Awards as well as a Screen Actors Guild nomination.
However, the film earned just one Oscar nomination, for Best Original Screenplay. And more than that, the screenwriters were white.
Creed, a widely-praised film following boxer Adonis Johnson as he enlists Rocky Balboa to train him to get a shot at a title, has a black director and lead actor. The film also received one Oscar nomination, for Best Supporting Actor.
The supporting actor is Sylvester Stallone. Hint: he’s white.
The lack of nominations is far from a one-dimensional issue. Underneath the fact that there are literally no nominations handed to people of color lies the fact that there is a severe lack of Hollywood opportunities available for people of color.
Viola Davis, TV actress, put it very simply in her Emmy acceptance speech after becoming the first African-American woman to ever win the Best Actress in a TV Drama award.
“You cannot win an Emmy for roles that simply are not there,” Davis said.
It is my opinion that this applies even more strongly to the film industry than in TV, where Davis has seen and experienced this discrepancy in her career.
I believe that the industry can do better. Not only are actors of color not given lead roles, but also directors, producers and writers are still predominantly white in Hollywood.
The money is there and the talent is there. It is now essential for the big names of film production to consciously look at what and whom they are choosing for their next projects.
I look forward to an immediate improvement from both Hollywood and the Academy as a whole, and even more so hope that “#OscarsSoWhite” is not trending on Twitter a year from now.
by Mamma Maya (Maya Schneider)