There has been quite a stir in entertainment news lately as one influential actor after another tweets, or posts, their outrage at the lily-white list of Best Actor contenders that was revealed during last week’s Oscar nomination announcements. In short order the morning news show hosts and afternoon talk show divas weighed in, adding to the fray and bolstering the online grumbling with a loud and growing number of sound bites, all of which set about fanning ever so swiftly the fires of righteous indignation.
That got me to thinking.
It got me to thinking about the capricious way that Oscar has been behaving for a number of years now and how his wanton behavior is tarnishing his once good name. And that got me to thinking about this true, perhaps unpopular point: Oscar slights are not a race issue so much as they are an only-the-mighty-can-win issue, and while it might be a good thing to shed some light on the inequity, I don’t think it’s a good thing to do it in the name of racial inequity.
Look, anyone who still thinks the Oscars are an accurate measure of the past year’s best work in film is entirely ingenuous. Everyone knows why the big tent-pole pictures – you know, the ones the studios count on to garner Oscar buzz and bring home the gold – are not released until December. And anyone who’s ever picked up a BackStage or Variety after New Year’s Eve knows that a full-on publicity attack in the form of full-page ads lies waiting inside. “For Your Consideration…”
Small budget? Small chance.
No dead-of-winter release? Dead in the water.
Not campaigning? Not winning.
It’s like the presidential race. (And the truth is we don’t see a whole lot of diversity there either!) Who among us thinks that the current crop of presidential candidates is truly the very best crop of candidates we have to run this country? No one believes that. It takes deep pockets and the right connections to run… and win! And it’s not that much different in Hollywood. The little guys have little chance and sometimes you’re a little guy because you really are, but sometimes it’s just because you don’t make enough covers of supermarket magazines or because you’re not chased around by enough paparazzi.
I can sympathize with the outrage, but don’t Academy voters vote individually? And if so, then don’t they each just vote how they vote? I don’t assume anyone is accusing them of collusion, and I can’t believe anyone is accusing the entire voting body of such an acknowledged socially liberal group of being racist…wholesale! So if those presumptions are correct then the only thing the Academy voters can be accused of is being short sighted in their voting and missing the mark, which they did. Which they’ve done for years, but that has so much more to do with when the films are released, how vigorously and doggedly the studios throw their money at full page ads in trade papers, and how big the film’s budget was to begin with than with than it does with the racial makeup of the cast.
I’m writing this because I’m riled, and I’m riled because there are catastrophic issues of racial injustice and inequality that need to be addressed, and the human race globally has far, far, far more of its fair share of issues demanding outrage and action that need to be addressed than it can handle, and there just aren’t enough people and there isn’t enough time or energy or answers to do all that addressing. I understand the disappointment, especially on an individual level for the people and films being singled out as overlooked, but perhaps some perspective is in order.
When my daughter was a toddler I was folding laundry in the living room one day. As I amassed a small pile of clean clothes on the sofa, she impishly pulled the pile onto the floor. The first time she did it, I picked the clothes up and refolded them. The second time she did it I did the same. The third time she did it I began to reprimand her when I realized two things: the first was that if I didn’t want her to do that I should place the pile on a higher surface. That led to the second realization, which was that this was not a battle worth having, especially because the problem could so easily be remedied. Not every problem we have faced since then has been so easily remedied, and not all of them have been as unimportant as whether there is clean laundry on the floor, but I have been guided by that realization every day since.
Unfortunately, and despite my continued efforts to be creative, productive, and recognized, I am not a voting member of the Academy, but on this day I can’t help but wonder if working, successful actors not being nominated for an Academy Award is a battle worth having in light of the many desperate racial issues that need redressing. Perhaps Oscar outrage just waters down those issues by turning the spotlight in a different direction – one in which it is already pointed so much of the time – to expose an issue not that desperate at all. Anyway, it is a suggestion, for your consideration.