#OscarsSoWhite ... So What?
by Julian Spivey
Today’s Academy Awards nominations brought forth controversy for the second consecutive year when all 20 of the nominees in the four acting categories (Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress) were all white. It led to a Twitter trending topic #OscarsSoWhite that seemingly will become a tradition on the popular social media site for years to come.
Last year I understood the backlash better as I felt David Oyelowo certainly should have been nominated for Best Actor for inhabiting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the film “Selma.” I would have also been in favor of giving both African-American and female director (another frequent complaint is the lack of female directors) Ava DuVernay a nomination for Best Director.
But, that was last year and this year I believe the #OscarsSoWhite controversy to be much ado about nothing. People shouldn’t really be surprised that all 20 nominees in the four acting categories are white, because for months now the majority of prognosticators (experts who are very good at their jobs) have been leading up to this. The non-white actors with the best chances to be nominated were Will Smith for “Concussion,” who’s film only ended up receiving middling reviews, and Idris Elba for “Beasts of No Nation,” who’s film was released primarily on Netflix, which might have had some in the industry who vote shrugging their shoulders (plus, supporting actor always seems like the hardest category to crack). Some were irritated that Michael B. Jordan didn’t get a nom for “Creed,” but not once did I ever see his name even among the possibilities, and others were irritated that Benicio del Toro wasn’t nominated for “Sicario,” again I rarely if ever saw him prognosticated as a nominee.
My question to those complaining about the Oscars not nominating a minority actor or actress in one of the acting categories is: Which actor do you remove from this field of stars and highly-acclaimed performances to insert either a Smith, Elba, Jordan or del Toro?
The Academy Awards have certainly been dominated in the past by Caucasian actors, but that’s because the percentages of white actors greatly outnumber those of minority actors, and that’s likely indicative of an issue of diversity in the film industry that I would never try to deny. It would be fantastic to see more actors of color in the industry, as would it be fantastic to see minority actors getting roles that don’t have any reason to specify race.
I don’t feel that the Academy – who’s President Cheryl Boone Isaacs is both African-American and a woman, something that seems necessary to bring up giving the controversy – has an agenda against certain races, sexes or sexual orientations. The movie industry as a whole might, but I feel the Academy does the best job it can at choosing the rightful nominees for its awards. I think it does a good job because if you look at the nominees they pretty much mimic both the prognosticators’ guesses and the critics’ reviews from the year in film.
I hate to say it, but when topics like #OscarsSoWhite come up it sometimes feels like people want a token nomination. It feels like people want at least one minority nominee in each category every year. But, award nominations and the winners should always be earned. Jamie Foxx earned his Oscar for “Ray,” Denzel Washington earned his two Oscars for “Glory” and “Training Day,” and in 2014 when Lupita Nyong’o won Best Supporting Actress for “12 Years a Slave” and Chiwetel Ejiofor (“12 Years a Slave) and Barkhad Abdi (“Captain Phillips”) were nominated for Oscars they were all earned.
It’s not easy to get nominated for Academy Awards. There are only 20 slots – 10 for men and 10 for women. There are on an annual basis probably 15-20 worthy candidates for each of the four categories. And, every year we’re all going to feel irritated when one of our favorite actors or performances is, in our opinion, snubbed. Based on expert opinions and prognostications this year it doesn’t feel like any of the actors or actresses who didn’t receive nominations were harshly snubbed, certainly not to the extent that I felt Oyelowo was last year.
So, while all 20 nominated Oscar performances are from white actors and actresses there really doesn’t seem a good reason to be all up in arms about it. Let’s simply honor the 20 best performances (roughly) of the year without worrying about things like race, because there are other serious and important racial issues in this country that should hold precedent anyway.
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