With the annual Academy Awards ceremony coming up Feb. 28, one is almost certain to have heard about the boycott set in place by Spike Lee and Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, over the lack of diversity within the Academy’s selections for their awards this year.
With some people deeming the Academy racist, and others deeming those people as ridiculous, the discussion has become a media field day that further perpetuates the “us” vs. “them” mentality.
Racial relations have devolved into a series of buzzwords, prodding opposing sides to their respective corners, stripping away any meaningful discussion in favor of a “silencing noise” where things might be said, but not a lot is heard, with those who speak the loudest drowning out those who might have the most to say.
That’s a shame, because though this is considered a celebrity temper tantrum by some, it’s also a series of very real frustrations coming to fruition for others.
With so much time being put into the argument over who deserves the Academy’s nominations, I believe the problem lies closer to Hollywood and the under-representation found within their moviemaking.
With the rate Hollywood is growing and the radical shifts in the racial makeup of this country, there is certainly a problem with a majority of roles going to white actors.
This, however, isn’t just a problem for African Americans. Asian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, and Native American demographics are also seriously under-represented by Hollywood, and many times they’re diminished down to offensive racial stereotypes instead of well-written characters.
Looking at recent examples, January’s “The Forest” features the Aokigahara suicide forest, a real place in Japan where many people tragically end their lives, as a sensationalized locale for the white cast to be scared by.
Likewise, “Gods of Egypt,” coming out Feb. 26, which stars Gerard Butler and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau – two white men – as Egyptian gods, is a clear example of whitewashing. This blunder is so blatant that film studio Lionsgate and director Alex Proyas have issued apologies on the matter.
Indeed, if one were to learn about our world through the lens of American Filmmaking, they’d see a very homogenized picture.
It’s important to keep an open mind and not jump on bandwagons without first surveying the road ahead. While the Academy Awards draw closer, no doubt the talks about boycotts and celebrity gossip will increase, but I feel wholeheartedly that we as a people, as film lovers, should explore the real issues.
By stepping out of our echo chambers and encouraging discussion about topics that might make us uncomfortable, or perhaps ideas we haven’t thought of, we can begin to make a change, or at least show that we’re ready for one.
Sam Posthuma of Bluffton is a freelance writer and production assistant for The Bluffton Sun.