Oscar Nominations too White? More to the Point


A Different World

Jada Pinkett-Smith, Will Smith and Spike Lee are within their right to boycott next months Oscars over the lack of “people of color” in the acting nominations for the 2nd year in a row.

But my favourite “Aunt Viv” – Janet Hubert – has a point over the timing of Jada’s stance given Will did not receive the expected nomination for his starring role in “Concussion“. [I was disappointed neither Abraham Attah nor Idris Elba got nominated for “Beast of no Nation“.]

The planned boycott has raised an important point and that is the absurd breakdown of the Oscars voting panel: 90+% white, 77% male and 2% black with an average age of 63.

While Jada can feel peeved at the lack of any minority nominations we not must be blindsided as in the past decade a number of black actors and actresses were nominated for Oscars. These include Denzel Washington, Octavia Spencer, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Forest Whittaker, Lupita Nyong’o, Barkhad Abdi, Mo’Nique, Gabourney Sidibe, Morgan Freeman, Taraji P Henson, Ruby Dee, Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Hudson…

Denzel Washington has had 6 Oscar nominations. So even with this imbalance the Oscars voting panel has nominated a wide range of black actresses and actors.

Are Spike, Jada & Will speaking on behalf of their colleagues in the Hispanic, Indian, Asian communities as well?  e.g. How Luis Guzman has never received a major acting nomination is beyond me.


In pursuit of fairness?

Hollywood has sometimes being criticised for being too liberal. Yet one could say that the industry’s liberal image seems to have its limits when providing strong leading roles to minority groups. Unless the role is based on a real life figure.

Is the Oscars ceremony far more about fashion, being seen rather than individual achievement? Are we expecting too much from the Oscars? Is the Oscars overrated?

There are so many film awards events/festivals that could be classed as more in tune with popular culture such as the Screen Actors Guild AFI, Golden Globes, Cannes, NAACP Image Awards, People Choice, MTV, BAFTA, Sundance and Evening Standard Film Awards.

Least I forget the Razzies. No people of colour nominations there for 2016.

Spike has suggested that Hollywood needs to apply a version of the National Football League’s (NFL) “Rooney Rule” when recruiting studio executives. NFL mandates that football teams interview at least one minority candidate every time a senior position becomes vacant. Out of the 32 current head coaches in the NFL 4 are black and 1 Hispanic. 66% of the NFL players are black.

Some assistant & former black coaches in the NFL will tell you that the Rooney Rule has had its limitations; as football club owners are known to interview a black candidate for publicity purposes knowing full well that the black interviewee would never be selected.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs in 2013 was elected as the 35th president of Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences (AMPAS). Only the third female president. Boone Isaacs has reacted swiftly to this week’s uproar and is to double the number of diverse members and women by 2020.

  • Why has it taken Mrs Boone Isaacs and her board over 2 years to address the imbalance of the voting panel?
  • More worryingly why for decades did  AMPAS ignore this imbalance?
  • Should AMPAS increase the acting categories from 4 to 8? I.e.  1. Best act/supporting act for Drama and 2. Best act/supporting act Comedy or Musical?  Similar categories to the Golden Globe.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs – (Mostly) White Men Can Vote?

Some nationalities such as Canadians or the French may feel that the Oscar nominations for the acting categories are centered around just 3 nations – US (e.g  Meryl Streep, 19 nominations, Britain (Kate Winslet 7) and Australia (Kate Blanchett 7).

Hollywood needs more minority actors and actress in stronger leading roles both in film and television. We need such films and TV dramas to be fairly distributed across cinemas and television screen globally. 

It’s only in 2014 – via a hacked email – we learnt that a film producer had the confidence and assurance to advise Sony president Michael Lynton not to cast black actors in lead roles as international audiences are “racist”.

In England, major London cinemas have an appalling record in screening films that cast numerous minority actors/actress in the lead roles. When the excellent “The Secret Life of Bees” came out in London (2008) it went on general release to just 1 cinema – the crummy Odeon on Panton St – and lasted just 5 days.

The film “Concussion” highlighted the serious issue of possible brain damage affecting those who play American football. Maybe Spike, Will/Jada or other minority led production crew could produce a film(s) on the politics behind the Oscars voting. They should not wait for the David O. Russells, Todd Haynes or Sam Mendes of the directing world to make such films and get the recognition.

How actors are nominated for Oscars?




About africanherbsman1967

Spent 3 decades in working in Whitehall mainly for Customs and Excise, Cabinet Office and Home Office. Worked for hundreds of public sector bodies in the UK, EU, US etc. Ex-London tour guide. Love photography, reading, arts, music, sports and farming. https://www.instagram.com/tigerg_uk/
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2 Responses to Oscar Nominations too White? More to the Point

  1. Marie Carra says:

    Brilliant piece!!! This is indeed the best article that I have read about this injustice. I particularly like your suggestion that a minority led production crew should produce a film about the politics behind the Oscars voting. It is important that this is addressed through our prism.

    I am concerned that the powers that be are trying to appease us by saying that they will double the number of minorities and women on the voting panel. However the number of minorities and women are so low that even when doubled the ratio of old white men to minorities/women on the panel would still be significantly distorted. Hence an increase from 2% Blacks to 4% Blacks on the panel is still meaningless.

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