AVOIDING BEING WASHED UP
Something is amiss in Hollywood and friction over the Oscar nominations is the smoke signal.
The make-believe world of the film industry cannot use special effects to escape a few painful realities. Debate over to or not to boycott this years Academy Award presentation is one plot turn. Another is will the Academy do something about its award deciding process?
The Academy is made up of Branches, relating to the various skills and crafts of film making; directing, acting, cinematography, writing, design, editing, and etc. Membership comes only through a sponsor and though the Academy is private about who belongs, an LA Times investigation revealed statistics that show it is a predominately white male organization. Some say the representation of male and female membership is roughly equivalent to the percentage of people working in film, but there's no way to be sure. Even that however does not speak to a couple of other story lines.
The film industry itself is a largely white enclave notably in the film studios and leadership, and mostly male as well. As George Clooney noted recently the current debate about the whiteness of this year's nominees goes mostly to the lack of African American talent but says little about Hispanic under representation that Clooney says is another problem.
Close to the core of this friction is a legitimate debate-Many believe the Oscars should recognize achievement and not be about pushing for diversity. It is an award, not social engineering. That's touchy in this age of racial sensitivity and lingering racism. It's even touchier when one consider the majority of Academy voters are white and male. True, the Academy is the private club of an already self indulgent professional culture so in a theory, one can argue, they can run the club house however they wish. But this is the 21st Century and we know about colonialism, imperialism, feudalism, racism and bias. And after all who makes the industry important? Movie goers! The fans are the ultimate power here.
Though we are marketed to, hyped, pitched and hustled we decide fates and fortunes by deciding to watch or not. If we are more than white males, it would follow what we get should be about more than white males. And that is true, but the disconnects exists.
Personally, I can't understand why Will Smith did not get a nomination for his courageous role in Concussion-based on a real character who too was brave and historic. As I watched Straight Outta Compton I wondered why Oshea Jackson, Jason Mitchell or Corey Hawkins were not considered for supporting actor roles. I have yet to see Beasts of No Nation, but people whom I respect say Idris Elba was excellent in his role.
Nothing against those who have been nominated. I've seen most of the nominees and indeed there has been masterful work. But I have to wonder if there were more women, more men and women of color in the process of selecting and eventually electing the winners, would we see more diversity. I think so.
The end of this drama is to be written. Will we see a large scale boycott? Will Chris Rock emcee or boycott? If he works, how will he handle the issue? Will a presenter or a recipient do a Marlon Brando? Will viewers shun the telecast? Will commercial sponsors show guts? Could an ad agency advise a big sponsors to tailor a special message respecting the quality of the nominees but lamenting the lack of diversity? Perhaps the biggest mystery is what will the Academy do about fixing what is clearly a problem in a system that bears a lot of resemblance to a plantation?
A MOMENT OF PERSONAL PRIVILEGE
We pause here under our blooming Jade, a sign of good luck, prosperity and friendship to congratulate our eldest on the birth of her daughter, our first grandchild. Congratulations also to our other daughter, an RN who was part of the delivery process. Everyone is doing well, including grandmother who can't stop smiling. Grandad got the news on the tennis court and had to wipe away a few tears before he got back to playing.
God bless that little darling and all of her generation. It gives this boomer more incentive to care about justice, fairness, peace and planetary health.
See you down the trail.