Oscars so white, also not the point

Nominations spur frustrations


Photo courtesy of MCT

Actor John Krasinski and AMPAS President Cheryl Boone Isaacs present the nominees for Best Original Screenplay on Jan. 14. “Straight Outta Compton” was one of the nominees, however there have been complaints that the piece was only nominated for its writing. The movie was written by Jonathon Herman and Andrea Hermoff, who are both white.

Awards season- an annual recognition of art, red carpet best-dressed lists, and of course, racial controversy.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) released its 2016 Oscar nominations on Thurs. Jan. 14, spurring immediate backlash over the lack of diversity among the potential winners.

For the second year in a row, there were no black actors or actresses in the 20 acting nominations, and films such as “Creed” and “Beasts of No Nation” failed to receive nods. Within hours, the “OscarsSoWhite” hashtag was trending and the internet was abuzz (again).

By now, a number of artists including Will Smith (who was considered a Best Actor contender for his role in “Concussion”) and have decided to boycott the award ceremony or have discussed it.

In response, the Academy has made numerous promises to change its ways to enhance diversity within itself, hoping to double the number of female and minority members in the next four years.

However, I cannot help but find issue with clambering for equality in and pressing accusations against something as beautifully and frustratingly subjective as art.

Innumerable factors go into the perspective and reasoning that a critic, or any viewer, takes into an evaluation of a film, story, or song. Factors like personal emotional ties or backgrounds or preferences get boiled down into checks on a ballot.

Sophomore Rishav Dasgupta said, “My initial reaction was, well this is dumb. If someone isn’t a good enough actor, then they don’t get a nomination.”

I highly doubt any voter in the Academy sat down determined to vote for only white actors. I highly doubt that people of different races and cultures can look at any piece of art the exact same way.

Frankly, what with all the backlash thrown at the AMPAS right now, they practically have no choice but to include black nominees next year, whether intentionally or subconsciously. They would have to be masochistic not to.

I have not seen “Concussion” nor “Creed,” and maybe they deserved Oscars, or maybe they did not. Either way, introducing hot social arguments into art and the evaluation of it practically robs the awards of whatever worth they had.

Now, the next nominated black actors will be invalidated because they will have gotten awards for “being black,” and the white ones will be invalidated because “some racist surely chose them over a black actor for being white.”

Freshman Isabella Miles said,” The main problem is that not many movies with black main characters were even out in 2015.”

Now, is there a lack of representation in Hollywood? Definitely- and black people are far from the only ones left out (all the Asians, Hispanics, and females over 35, think).

Really, for mainstream films to become representative of the American population there would have to be a massive overhaul of the entire industry (although total equality would not be representative either, given that census data from 2012 reveals that while minority and multiracial numbers are rapidly growing, non-Hispanic whites still make up 67 percent of the United States population, over three times the population of blacks).

Miles said, “There needs to be less focus on what color the actor is. It needs to be just about finding someone who’s a good actor. Someone who makes it real, makes the audience engage. If a character needs to be black or a character needs to white for the story, then make them that; but the focus needs to be on quality.”

But artists and creators have the right to craft the stories they want to tell and ought to cast the best actors to create an entertaining and impactful experience. Art owes nothing to its viewer.

Of course, if there are minorities working to tell their tales but are suppressed by the industry or lack of opportunity (which frankly I am sure there is no shortage of), then that is a whole different story.

But for those people, at least for now, a voice, a means to reach an audience is the point. A shiny gold trophy is not.
Hollywood has a bevy of tremendous problems (excessive violence and sexism to name a few). The Academy Awards are hardly the worst of them.