Editorial: Hollywood Whitewashing

by JANE KROL

After the controversy about the lack of diversity among the Oscar nominees last year, you would think the Academy learned their lesson. It’s 2016. We’ve come so far in regards to many social issues, but race continues to be an issue. Why do we still see and embrace a predominantly white culture portrayed in the film industry today? And when the industry does include an African American cast, how come award shows like the Oscars have failed to delegate awards to talented actors and actresses that are not white?

In anticipation of the upcoming 2016 Oscars on February 28th, the Academy released a list of every actress/actor up for an award. While last year, there were few, but some black nominees, this year there are none on the list. Films like Beasts of No Nation, Concussion,  Creed, and Straight Outta Compton featured prominent performances by black actors yet none of these actors were recognized by the academy.  Why these exceptional performances were not recognized by the Academy is a mystery to me. Beyond my own opinions, The Economist points out that, “…of the Academy’s 6,000-odd voting members, 94% are white.” It seems suitable, then, that we address the issue with the Academy itself. The lack of diversity in the Academy surely has some correlation to the lack of diversity in the nominees.

The other argument is that African Americans are simply just not chosen to play leading roles, which puts blame on the Hollywood film industry as well. While this has proved true in the past, The Economist further highlights an accurate statistic of this dilemma. It’s broken down to the fact that, “ black actors are underrepresented in the roles that count for the Oscars, getting just 9% of the top roles since 2000, according to our own analysis. (We define “top roles” as the top three names on the cast-list on IMDb, an online film database, in films with a rating of 7.5 or greater, an American box-office gross of at least $10m, and which were neither animate nor in a foreign language)”. Sadly, Variety editor, Tim Gary, candidly states the reality  that “awareness of the problem isn’t new in the film industry; various solutions have been proposed, only to fade away.”

So what can we do to combat the racially biased 88th Academy Awards show? Well first things first: you can simply boycott the broadcast. Many stars such as Spike Lee and the Smith family refuse to attend the event. As Jada Pinkett Smith so perfectly stated, “Is it time that people of color recognize how much power and influence that we have amassed, that we no longer need to ask to be invited anywhere? Maybe it’s time that we recognize that if we love and respect and acknowledge ourselves in the way in which we are asking others to do, that that is the place of true power.” Fans of these celebrities have also resorted to a social media campaign by getting the #OscarSoWhite tag trending.  Perhaps these measures can help the Academy to recognize the change that needs to be made within the film industry.