I have been following the #OscarsSoWhite debate with fluctuating interest. I finally decided to write about it after I read that Chris Rock has decided not depart from his duties of hosting the awards this year. He will instead rewrite his whole monologue to address the issue of the lack of diversity in the nominations.
For a start, I am not racist nor do I have anything against actors of color. In fact, I personally feel that actors of the caliber of Morgan Freeman, Samuel L Jackson, Idris Alba, Cuba Gooding Jr., Whoopi Goldberg, Queen Latifa, Kerry Washington and Forest Whitaker are grossly underused in Hollywood.
But why the hue and cry now when there have been no nominations for black actors?
Apart from Idris Alba in Beasts of No Nation, I do not think any other performance in 2015 by an African American actor deserves to be among the nominees. And NO!!! Straight Outta Compton does not fit the bill.
The cry for inclusion now seems to be a case of sour grapes. If we were to implement inclusion and ensure that black actors are forcibly included in the nominations, in a year or two there will be a similar protest by Latino actors – #OscarsSoBlackAndWhite.
Imagine the dust that would be driven up if 1 billion Indians decide to rake up the issue of why no Indians or Americans of Indian descent are being nominated in any category – #OscarsNotBrown.
Instead of boycotting or bargaining, start by taking action. Are you trying to tell me that A-List actors like Will Smith or Denzel Washington do not possess enough clout to influence production houses to cast actors based on their ability rather than their skin color?
All Arab actors need not be evil terrorists nor do black actors need to portray slaves or wronged personalities to get noticed in a movie. Neither do Indian actors have to be in a musical with song and dance nor do Latino actors need to portray a drug lord with an accent for the world to acknowledge their presence. They can be cast despite their color.
Casting Cuba Gooding Jr. instead of Matt Damon in The Martian or Kerry Washington in Room would have made no difference to the overall movie or the storyline. The fault is not with the Oscars but with the casting done by the production houses. I agree biopics and real life adaptations tend to be more rigid in their casting and it has to correspond with the back-story… but let’s be realistic. How many such movies are made in a year?
In short, actors should not be clamoring for inclusion but for roles with substance. The fault is not with the Oscars… it is with the Hollywood industry.
Regardless of who boycotts the Academy Awards, I will be watching it for two reasons –
- To listen to Chris Rock’s (One of my favorite stand up comedians) monologue.
- To finally be able to see Leonardo DiCaprio win an Oscar.