On February 9th, exactly a dozen #OscarsSoWhite protesters gathered outside the luncheon celebrating this year’s Oscar nominees, gripping stark, black signs, designed with only a white silhouette of an Oscar, and the name of the movement printed in vivid red above. The message was clear, and their voices were heard by the media, even if suppressed. Protests are expected to continue on the big night as well…even though, in some respects, #OscarsSoWhite has already succeeded.
As much as we hate to admit it, the debate on racism in America is still relevant. It still seeps through the country today, through government workers, through extremists, and even through the silver screen. The prevalence of the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite urges us all to face a reality that is difficult to accept, and create a future in media that is truly equal, no matter the color of your skin.
When there are a dozen people, screaming against the injustices of an entire industry, you can barely hear a whisper. However, in some cases, that’s all that’s really needed. #OscarsSoWhite has planted doubts in the minds of media consumers, snowballing the movement into something quite greater, and creating questions that the media are too afraid to answer. Who is making the decisions? Where is this prejudice coming from? , and Is the problem even deeper than this? With the Oscars’ grand total for black nominations at a whopping total of zero, tensions are running high. Already, the list of stars prepared to boycott the awards in support of #OscarsSoWhite is growing, carrying heavy names like Will Smith and Sylvester Stallone. The Academy is clearly facing more pressure than ever, so why don’t they just change?
The answer is that issue is more profoundly rooted in the industry – bluntly, the majority of the influential, decision making executives in the media are old, white, and male- and stretches far beyond the scope of even a prestigious Sunday night awards show. When patrons see a movie that claims to be set in the real world, they to see just that, a setting full of real people. However, Hollywood continues to lag far behind America in terms of racial diversity, and unfortunately, that divide continues to widen. Over the past 15 years, fewer and fewer roles are being written for people of color as demand grows, resulting in minorities being misrepresented in a ratio of 6 to 1. This would not be so bad, if there were more minorities who were allowed to have a voice is this casting process, but unfortunately, the media falls short in that respect as well. Minorities are even more outnumbered in executive positions,-the ratio going up to almost seven to one- leading to one simple conclusion. It’s not just the Oscars, #HollywoodSoWhite.
However, is this truly a question of racism, or just preference by those in charge? Hollywood is oversaturated with white men in power, but why should their opinions affect minorities and their position in the media? According to The Academy, all of their decisions are based on their honest preferences, and we cannot blame members of the same demographic to have similar tastes. Validation from this group does not create a great film or actor, and great films and actors do not necessarily get validated by The Academy: it is all based on simple opinion. It is almost impossible to say if these opinions are directly derived from racism or are truly from personal preference, but what can be said for certain is that The Academy is made of one type of individual, who looks for one type of thing. Whether they see in black and white or color, if change wants to be made, the institution of the Oscar’s Academy must be rearranged, because as it stands now, the awards, like the people in charge, will remain the same for decades.
Hollywood, like the Academy, seems to also be stuck in time, unable to open its eyes to see the reality that has become today. If the industry is not racist, it is at the very least outdated, and the problems lie at the top, in the very specific demographic of people who control it. It will take years, decades, to diversify the people in power before any tangible impact can be made on the recognition of people of color in the media. We have fallen into a downward spiral, that racism started, and the media pushed along. The obsession over gratification, awards, has perhaps become more important i than the quality of the films, The Academy more important than the people. When more white actors won originally-due to the fact that roles were almost exclusively written for this demographic- perhaps the companies saw them as the ideal, creating the ideology behind casting divide. Colored actors could not even attempt to audition for a position: inherent biases within the society meant that nothing was available and they would be rejected immediately. More actors that fit this “white” ideal simply meant more awards. The trend has continued until today, and perhaps now the racism is not intentional, though this is all speculation. Whatever the cause may have been, intended or not, we are stranded in a place where the stars we admire far from reflect ourselves.
Racism exists, and Hollywood is fueled by gratification and money. It depends on perspective whether they’re correlated or not. The antiquated position of the media industry must be changed and ripped out of the vicious cycle it has fallen in today. Diversity must be achieved, and maybe opinions shouldn’t matter as much. So yeah, #OscarsSoWhite, there’s really no doubt about that: but what are we really striving for? A world where films are manifested for the artist, for the people to enjoy, where extraordinary acting and talent is appreciated regardless of appearance? Ideal…but I guess you only ever see things like that in the movies.