For the record, I don’t do boycotts. I never have. Not even in the face of things that I really don’t agree with. Call it lazy or stupid or negligent, I just don’t get into things that deeply. Or I try not to at least.
I never gave my stance on boycotts any thought until recently. The hot topic that has many people of color and people in general feeling a certain kind of way is the first time that I have considered boycotting anything. With that, I will not be watching the Oscars this year.
Let me tell you that I love movies. I can’t remember the last time I missed a televised Oscar ceremony. I live for the fashion, the speeches and the camaraderie that clearly exists amongst creators in such an awesome industry. Every February, I watch with glee as the best in cinema are recognized for their work.
This year, though, it’s different for me. It’s different for a number of folks. This year, I decided to put aside my laissez-faire approach to accepting the Academy Award nominations because honestly, I don’t think their picks truly recognize the best in cinema. Their list is incomplete. Their list is predictable, and their list is unacceptable.
In the past, I’d tell myself, in an attempt to explain away their lack of color and diversity, things like, “That’s just what it is,” or “We know so and so was good in that movie, and that’s all that matters.” But in the spirit of accepting one’s truth, I don’t feel in my heart that giving my support to a tradition, so systematically patriarchal is something I am okay with doing any longer.
Most of us are aware of the kind of society in which we live. Well, those of us who don’t directly benefit from it anyway. It is run by white men and has been so for countless years. Times have definitely changed for the good, but there are still some entities that pride themselves on the stark tradition of what they believe made them great.
Without a doubt, it is time for the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences to get with the program and start recognizing minorities for the work that they do. Period.
My boycott is not just about the lack of black people represented in the Academy’s nominations. It’s not just about how looking at the list of movies you would think that women don’t direct films; we only star in them. It’s not just about the need for diversity in who is nominated because I’m sorry, Jennifer Lawrence is not the end all of end alls in acting, and Ridley Scott didn’t write the book on directing. I mean hell, give me a David O Russell and I’d win shit all the time too. My boycott and that of others like Jada Pinkett Smith is about accepting the non- standard as the standard; which has nothing to do with lowering the bar and everything to do with the need for elevated thinking when considering what the bar should look like. It’s about understanding that the world is seen through a cornucopia of colorful lenses, and they are not all middle-aged Caucasian males. It’s about creating an industry culture where women, LGBT, young, fat, black, Asian, old and the like have access to materials that position them to explore their acting abilities in roles outside of what Hollywood labels their “lane.”
I believe that it is when access to materials and roles and opportunities is broadened that black people and other overlooked groups of people get what individuals consider the industry’s greatest honor and the recognition that afford so many.
We are all fighting for stuff. I get it. And I don’t believe that my fight as a black woman is greater than the fight of someone who is gay and Asian and fat and old. The key thing to remember is the importance of the need to continue fighting because if we raise enough hell, and bang on their doors loud enough, they will have no chose but to answer.
It is true that, in particular, the lack of color in the 2016 Oscar nominations is bullshit because black and brown actors did some outstanding work the cinema in 2015. Ryan Coogler, Will Smith and Edris Elba all did, in my opinion, Oscar recognition worthy work last year. But even with the argument aside about needing more material, what’s the excuse for no nominations when the body of work is there?
I guess since I am not a… well, you know what I’m not… I will never know the answer to that question.