– conscious, aware, cognizant –
“Even though some people have given really great performances in movies, they weren’t even thought about. We’re living in a country that discriminates, and has certain racist tendencies.”
– Danny Devito (Hollywood actor/producer/director)
Is Danny Devito ‘woke’? Did he hit it on the head when he stated that America was a racist country? Probably so, but Devito was not entirely correct. It is not just America that is racist, but he has never lived anywhere else to be able to report on the rest of the world.
“It is racist against whites. One can never really know, but sometimes maybe black actors did not deserve to make the final list. Why classify people? We live now in countries where anyway people are more or less accepted. There are always problems: ‘He’s less handsome’ or ‘He’s too black’ or ‘He’s too white.’ There will always, always be someone who will say, ‘Oh, you’re too…’ What are we going to do? We’re going to classify all that to create thousands of little minorities everywhere?”
– Charlotte Rampling (British, Oscar-nominated actress – 45 Years)
Charlotte Rampling = out of touch, out of bounds, out of her goddamn mind
For those that were disturbed by the response of one particular nominee this year, the simple fact is they should not be. It shouldn’t be surprising or all that shocking that Charlotte Rampling was of this opinion. Look where she comes from. British born, she works in France as well, a country in the European Union, and a part of the world that continues to decree how free and open it is, yet turns a blind eye to its people of color across the board. Europe can be an amazing, jovial time…if you’re white. How shocking it was as a black American to see Paris for the first time and then realize that the city was multicultural in a way that I had not imagined. Upon arriving in the Marais arrondissement, I walked around and around and around. Finally, I had to ask a Frenchman…
“Where are the black people?”
Well, when I went “over there”, that was the only thing I saw. Streets teeming with the overwhelming majority of the black, brown, and other non-white people that populate the City of Lights. How disgusting/disturbing it was to see them all basically living on top of one another. This was segregation at its most literal. In America, there may be segregation, but in this case, there didn’t seem to be any other choice. If you were not white, this was pretty much the only place that would have you.
For those that opine that Hollywood is a land of make believe, I remind that it is also a land of inspiration. It is here that people go to make their dreams a reality. And the hard, cold, stark reality of Hollywood is that even when it claims to be gritty and culturally aware, it is far removed from that in more ways than it care to recognize.
If there had been hashtags back in the 90s, I’m more than 99% sure that Twitter would have been ablaze with #FriendsSoWhite or #SATCsoWhite as well. It is the power of social media and more that has made how wide the divide more apparent to the public. It cannot and will not be ignored or brushed under the table and must in fact, be tackled head on.
For those that are lambasting Jada Pinkett Smith for speaking now? My question to you all is when would it have been appropriate for her to speak? After her husband won an Oscar? Before he had been nominated for any? At the end of the day, the time to speak is when your heart is moved most. In a damned if you do, damned if you don’t stance, Pinkett made her voice known now and as a result, she has shed a light on a problem that has plagued Hollywood since the beginning of its existence. If anything, Pinkett should be applauded for risking career suicide by speaking in the first place. It is going to take several more Jadas in Hollywood before the needle even moves enough for us to notice. She is but one voice, but at least she is using hers.
For those that opine that Hollywood represents America in direct proportion to the percentage of black Americans in the United States? The general population includes the countries and states that virtually no major movies cover. The majority of Hollywood’s biggest movies take place in large cities where people of color make up for more than 13%. Yet, when you turn on the television or look up on the silver screen and the setting is Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, D.C., Atlanta, and more, the screen still seems to be whiter than the reality, even when taking into account the background actors and even the extras. So until Hollywood stars making Academy caliber films primarily in BumF*ckNowhere, Kansas, LilyWhite, Wyoming, NoMinority, Minneapolis, I think that theory can be firmly kicked to the curb. Is Hollywood whitewashed?
You have your answer.
For those that opine that no black actors were in films worthy of Oscar this year? How many years has the Academy Awards bestowed trophies to actors and movies that were not worthy? And when black actors do win, why is it that most of their wins involve drugs, slaves, prostitutes? I, for one, was quite thrilled that Viola Davis did not win the Oscar for The Help. And when are black people going to be allowed to play some of the greatest stories ever told on the silver screen that involve them, but have been portrayed by white people every generation? Everyone knows Cleopatra looked nothing like Liz Taylor. Everyone knows Moses looked nothing like Christian Bale. Giving Sigourney Weaver a deep tan is not fooling anyone. So, excuse people of color (and this includes ALL people of color) that are angry right now at the lack of diversity on screen. We have tales outside of the stereotype just waiting to be told – by us, with us. If it is not already apparent how the Academy views people of color, this is a cold reminder.
So what if Chris Rock is hosting the Oscars? Black people have always, especially in recent years, invited to the party but in a specified role. Sure, you can come to the party, but only to entertain us. Don’t expect an Oscar. Sure, we’ll let you host it, but don’t expect any considerable recognition. As a token of our gratitude, we’ll even give you an Oscar or two every few decades. I don’t know about any of you, but the fact that Halle Berry is the first – and still only – black woman to win a Best Actress Oscar pisses me off. And for those that are not pissed off, you should be, because it means more than what you think it does.
Racism is a topic that white people don’t like to discuss because it makes them uncomfortable. Rightly so. But guess what? It doesn’t make anyone of any other color comfortable either. I don’t know a single black, brown, or yellow person that starts their day with the notion of bringing up racism to upset a white person. The fact is that racism is thrust into our daily, hourly lives and it would be a hindrance if the topic was avoided just to ‘keep the peace’.
“You can’t vote for an actor because he’s black. You can’t just say, ‘I’m going to vote for him. He’s not very good, but he’s black. I’ll vote for him.'”
– Michael Caine, Oscar winner
Michael Caine, himself married to a person of color, should know better but apparently he doesn’t. Perhaps his wife has become so enclosed/enraptured within his white privilege and the benefits of it that she isn’t exposed to it anymore, but the fact of the matter remains that the rest of us that live in the real world know that the color of your skin does in fact dictate your station in life, no matter what your socio-economic level. But then again, England is still stuck in an outdated class system, but I digress…
Just a few months ago, Matt Damon made some statements that also showed that there is a lot more ignorance going on in Hollywood than meets the eye, often by people that we assume to be ‘woke’, yet are clearly asleep at the wheel in a goddamn coma. Interesting too? Matt Damon is also married to a woman of color. Perhaps she is also a beneficiary of his white privilege and is no longer a victim of such profiling.
Another sure sign of Hollywood protecting and nurturing ‘their own’? Here’s an example: how many flops must Blake Lively make before she is flung into the Hollywood NO pile? How many movies did Mary Elizabeth Winstead have to chortle through before she was sent to the C-list? The same goes for Julianne Hough and a slew of other white actresses that have been forced upon us despite mediocre film after flop after middling box office after negative review? The truth is that no black or brown or yellow actor would be given as many opportunities to star in or produce a hit television show or film if in the same position. In so many instances, actors of color must take any role they can get just to even have something to put on their resumes. The reason why you see Angela Bassett less and less on the big screen is certainly not because of her talent. She is just as much a force today as she was in ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It?’ The reason why you see Queen Latifah less on the big screen is not because she is not as talented as she was in ‘Chicago’ or ‘Bringing Down the House’. Et cetera, et cetera. The problem is staring us directly in the face and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out: Hollywood is not catering to these actors, it is not attempting to develop projects that showcase them in the best light, and it is not marketing them as it would white actors because they are unconvinced of their ‘legs’. What is clear is that Hollywood would rather take a chance on a mediocre white actor with stumps, than bother placing an actor of color with proven legs in a starring (or even supporting) role in a big production.
Every few years in Hollywood, a movie or film headlined by an all-black or ‘ethnic’ cast is lauded as a runaway hit and is treated like a phenomenon akin to Hailey’s Comet. The fact is that there are many movies and shows that could and would be massive hits if they were marketed and exposed to the general public as much as a vehicle for white actors. Case in point? It is only recently that another show with an all-Asian cast made prime time television. But it was twenty years ago that they attempted to with comedienne Margaret Cho, which was a disaster by all accounts. That fiasco only brought to light what many artists of color in the industry already know: white Hollywood knows diddly squat about POC and they are barely even bothering to grab Cliff’s Notes before they delve in. But we implore you, Hollywood…
Get the memo, get a clue, get with the program!
A change gon’ come!