As the 88th Academy Awards were announced on Thursday morning, Twitter couldn’t help but get more than just the #Oscars2016 hashtag trending. After the excitement of seeing Straight Outta Compton, the N.W.A. biopic, actually nominated for an Oscar, reality set in: It was only one Oscar. The Straight Outta Compton writers are white, by the way. Let’s be real. Even one nomination is something to celebrate. The thing is, should we actually celebrate it?
While Straight Outta Compton received a Best Original Screenplay nomination, it, along with other “black movie” favorites, failed to be nominated in any of the top categories. Use of the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, thus so, came as a response. Actors of color, along with movies featuring a diverse cast, have officially been absent from the top Oscar categories for the second year in a row.
“It’s only two years. That’s not much.”
So is it just a coincidence?
Well, maybe. If you choose to overlook the facts.
The Academy of Motion Arts and Pictures presented the first Academy Awards in 1929. The first black producer to win an Oscar didn’t come till 2013 (Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave). The second win from an African American in the Best Adapted Screenplay category didn’t come till 2013 (John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave) after the first one had only been awarded in 2009 (Geoffrey Fletcher , Precious). T.J. Martin, an African American film maker, didn’t become the first African American to win in the Best Documentary category until 2012 (Undefeated). In 2002, Denzel Washington became the only African American to have two Oscars win. After 87 years, only 15 African American actors have won an Oscar.
If you’re in the film industry, yes. If you’re not in the film industry, yes.
How are we supposed to get children of color interested in the arts when history shows that their success in it isn’t promising? It’s not a smart decision to encourage children (or yourself, quite frankly) to go into the film industry if they’re African American.
If you’re convinced that its not an issue of race, let me rephrase it for you: African American actors and film industry members have ‘coincidently’ struggled in the Hollywood Film Industry when compared to other races.
According to the Motion Picture of Association of America, about 150 million African American individuals went to the movies in 2012. The number rose for the first time since 2009 in 2013 when more African American movies were appearing in our cinemas (Fruitvale Station, 12 Years of Slave).
So from a business standpoint, Hollywood makes more money when it offers a bit of diversity. If you’re African American, numbers show that you tend to spend more money at the box office when people who look like you are on the screen.
If 2015 proves anything it is that Hollywood took that into consideration. Apart from Straight Outta Compton, films like Creed, Dope, and Beasts of No Nation, which highlighted African American actors and film makers, were all Oscar favorites but received limited nominations. Well, only one other nomination for Sylvester Stallone’s portrayal of Rocky in the Best Supporting Actor category for his work against an African American lead (Michael B. Jordan), and an African American writer and director (Ryan Coogler).
But then again, it probably was just another coincidence that the only African American film recognition in the 88th Academy Awards was only awarded to the white involvement in them, right?
An award is a great recognition to receive. So fans of N.W.A and Straight Outta Compton should celebrate their Oscar nomination, but not, by any reason, be content.
The Oscars are a small but prevalent example of how, even if indirectly, discrimination still exists.
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