White Academy Members Find Every Possible Excuse For #OscarsSoWhite Debacle
White members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are finding every tired excuse possible to dismiss claims of racism in the Academy following a lily-white slate this year. Take Penelope Ann Miller, who, for reference looks like this:
She told The Hollywood Reporter that she did, in fact, vote for some black nominees. “But to imply that this is because all of us are racists is extremely offensive. I don’t want to be lumped into a category of being a racist because I’m certainly not and because I support and benefit from the talent of black people in this business. It was just an incredibly competitive year.”
Yeah, guys, it was an incredibly competitive year. Because The Revenant and The Big Short and Mad Max: Fury Road were just so great that the Academy plum couldn’t eke in a nomination for Beasts of No Nation or Straight Outta Compton or any person of color who worked on any movie, basically.
Then there’s Jeremy Larner, who likes to use this dated photo on his (Geocities?) web site but who, in fact, looks even whiter today:
He told THR: “I happen to think Straight Outta Compton is not a great film for reasons of structure and substance. I can imagine it is a powerful affirmation for those who share the assumptions of its music and see it as fans. But to me, a good film has to show a lot more than this one does.” He continued: “It is not a time to make enemies among those who would move us further in the direction of fairness, freedom and justice.”
What a goldmine of casual racism! “Don’t make enemies, black people!” Or else what, Larner? Methinks he doth protest too much.
It’s fair for Larner to not like Straight Outta Compton, but mayhap the Academy should seek out voting members who do share the assumptions of its music or of black, Hispanic, Asian, and Middle Eastern cultures? Not according to Miller, who chimed in that “There were an incredible number of films in 2015 that were primarily about white people. Talk to the studios about changing that, not the Academy. There’s only so much we can do.”
This actually perfectly sums up the problem, which isn’t that individual members of the Acadmey are racist (although, who knows). It’s that the Academy was a white institution to begin with, it’s still white now, it celebrates white culture and films that aren’t offensive to white culture, and yet it claims to be an authority on all film culture. Lupita Nyong’o spoke to this effectively on her Instagram:
And meanwhile, black industry executives like Franklin Entertainment chairman DeVon Franklin aren’t wiping their hands of responsibility but coming up with actionable solutions for the film industry’s widespread lack of diversity:
“What needs to be done is that studios should identify how we can increase the number of executives of color in our executive ranks, and not just in the beginning ranks — recruit, retain and then grow them in a system where hopefully they can become senior vps and ultimately chairmen. That has to be done, but it requires resources, and it requires an effort. As it relates to the agency and the talent representation side, similar thing. When you look at the big agencies, how many people of color are agents? The numbers are deplorable. […]
They should be recruiting people when they are in middle school and high school, through to the college level. A lot of African-Americans who have professional aspirations don’t even know there is a whole career possibility for them behind the camera in Hollywood. So it’s a publicity thing and putting the resources there.”
If white Academy members are going to excuse themselves from responsibility for what has become a homogenous nomination slate and a frankly boring broadcast, maybe movie fans should consider just not watching the Oscars this year. Ad revenue brought in $95 million for the Academy in 2014. If they’re not going to do their job and even reflect upon how to do their part to make the Oscars more representative of the diversity of filmmakers, writers, and actors in their industry, why should we help them get paid?