A Night Of Hollywood’s Whitest

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The 87th Annual Academy Awards show is a time for film buffs and cinematography enthusiasts to celebrate the year’s best in show and argue for hours on end about which movie should have won for Best Screenplay. It is a time for glitzy gowns to be showcased on the famous red carpet, and for viewers watching at home to peer into the world of Hollywood movie stars. The only thing that’s missing from this world of glamour and finesse is something that hasn’t been around for several decades–diversity.

This year’s host of the prestigious awards show, Neil Patrick Harris, opened up the event with a joke that brought up a good point: “Tonight we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest–I mean, brightest”.

The Academy, the ones who pick the winners, is made up of 94% whites and 77% males, with an average member age of 63 years.

That being said, it is important to note that this year’s Oscars held the least amount of diversity since 1998.

Among the nominees this year, there were no people of color present. In other categories, female screenwriters, directors or cinematographers weren’t nominated as well, leaving the stage to be set for primarily white, male actors and film makers.

via Huffington Post
A look at this year’s primarily white nominees (via Huffington Post)

Viewers took notice of the lack of diversity, and took to Twitter to lash out against the white-dominating industry, using the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite to jokingly point out the overall “whiteness” of the awards show.

This year, John Legend and Common’s win for Best Original Song was only the 32nd time in 87 years that a black person has won an Oscar. That’s 32 wins from a person of color out of more than 3,000 winners. And the times they did win, they won for perfectly portraying the role of a struggling minority (i.e. Octavia Spencer in The Help). Yikes.

More often than not, the entertainment industry has become submerged in Caucasian power. So the question here is, how do we break the habit?

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2 thoughts on “A Night Of Hollywood’s Whitest

    greenpete58 said:
    February 27, 2015 at 10:25 pm

    I like your style! But I have to respectfully take issue with a few of your points. Yes, only 32 blacks have won Oscars in the event’s history. But you have to look at things in perspective. Civil rights legislation didn’t occur until 1964. So before then, blacks weren’t winning ANYthing. Hollywood was actually ahead of the rest of the country. Hattie McDaniel, Dorothy Dandridge, Sidney Poitier, Duke Ellington, Juanita Moore, Ethel Waters, and James Baskett were all nominated, some winning, during the Jim Crow era. This was significant progress compared to the rest of the U.S. And since then, Oscar recognition of blacks (and Hispanics) has grown exponentially. And not just for “portraying the role of a struggling minority.” Poitier, Lou Gossett Jr., Denzel Washington, Dexter Gordon, Don Cheadle, Forest Whitaker, Jamie Foxx, Will Smith, Beah Richards, Angela Bassett… their roles were not stereotypical oppressed black roles. If anything, your essay furthers the idea that blacks are still a “struggling minority”…yet you don’t want this idea reflected in film??

    And I don’t know why you say “the entertainment industry has become submerged in Caucasian power.” Rap, hip-hop, funk, soul, blues, and jazz music genres are loaded with black performers, producers, and executives. I’m not sure of the percentage of blacks in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but I’ll bet it’s pretty large. College and professional football, baseball, and basketball? If anything, blacks have flourished in the entertainment industry. Most complaints I here are about barricades in the business sector.

    I would argue that if 2014 was a “white” year in film, it’s largely due to there being disproportionately fewer blacks than whites who pursue creative roles in Hollywood. Does racism exist? Yeah, it certainly does… even in Hollywood. But charging an entire industry with racism, especially an industry that’s gone to bat for diversity and inclusion since 1939, is reckless. Regardless, the Academy Awards are supposed to be about artistic merit, which is (or at least should be) colorblind. Here’s a thought: maybe there were “no people of color present” in certain award categories only because of a dearth of Oscar-quality work? It’s possible. And there were probably many white males who didn’t make the grade, either.

    Thanks for hearing me out. Even though we agree to disagree, I’m with you in hoping that one day race won’t be an issue.

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      cmorale1 responded:
      February 28, 2015 at 12:03 am

      Thanks so much for your feedback! I do see your points, and you bring up great arguments. I should have been more clear with what I was trying to say: The major entertainment industry awards shows (The Academy, The Grammys, etc) seem to be glorifying white actors & musicians. If you read my piece on the Grammys, you’ll see that this year was the first year in a while that they did not broadcast the hip hop/rap categories. Why is that? Is that a mere coincidence? Then there’s the whole debate on whether or not rock (which is a primarily white category) is favored over hip hop/rap/R&B categories (which are primarily black categories). The closest thing to those categories were Sam Smith’s and Adele’s wins.
      Yes, the entertainment industry has come a long way with acknowledging the work of people of color. However, the issue I’m trying to bring up has more to do with more current years. It’s 2015, and there still isn’t enough diversity among the categories of actors. Denzel Washington won for portraying an African-American soldier in “Glory” and then for a corrupt cop in “Training Day”. Why can’t black people be acknowledge for portraying strong, independent, and successful people? There always has to be some kind of struggle. Also, maybe the reason why more people of color haven’t gone after creative roles is because they are discouraged, due to the level of white power within these industries. What’s the point of trying to go into something if you’re going to be constantly racialized and shut down?
      When I say that the entertainment industry is being “submerged in Caucasian power”, I mean that there is still a barrier between what is a “black” industry and what is a “white” industry. And why is there still such a division? Because the white industries still hold a majority of the power/influence and therefore maintain the barrier.
      While I do see that you make some really excellent points, I still think that there is a division of power within these industries. I’m not sure if you’ve clicked on the links I posted, but they paint a pretty good picture on why the lack of diversity is an issue. Also, here’s another pretty good explanation http://www.buzzfeed.com/davidmack/oscars-so-white-visualized#.fbdAPXg2A
      Hope this clears things up!

      Like

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