As an aspiring actor, the Oscars are both a pleasure and a pain to endure. It’s a lavish spectacle where stars get to come together and have an entertainer torture their way through hosting the show. A lot of them go empty-handed to hear bloated speeches from their colleagues who either stand on the soapbox or cry all over it. Outside of the Hollywood machine, it does give off an air of pretentiousness, self-righteousness and awkwardness that can be unbearable to sit through and take seriously. Yet, if one longs to be in the world of cinema, one can’t help still to imagine themselves in one of those seats in fine evening-wear and hear their name called out and feel that people do love them, they really do love them. Maybe it could, but for many, the art world is a cynical realm. Having different skin color, genitalia and sexual orientation only makes it harder to get the mainstream respect, but hey at least you got more of a chance in those froo-froo film festivals, right?
Now, I’m sure I’m not the only person writing about the backwardness of the Academy. Many people before me have already made their pieces regarding the white-old-male dominance of the academy, how bizarre it is that the liberal Hollywood still seems to shun the minorities that they love to stand up form and that there’s absolutely no reason for Spotlight to be nominated aside from “it’s based on a true story”. I would have to be lying to say that I could give you an entirely fresh take on this issue. But I could say it and convince you that it’s true because I’m a master thespian.
I have quite a plethora of issues with the award show, with each of them having their roots stem from other sources. All of which come to the point that the show isn’t as diverse as it wants to paint itself. It’s centered only among a few countries, leaving the international markets to fight over a single category. Stories have to be of a specific archetype, hence why the term Oscar-bait becomes so overused once the winter movie season kicks in. There seems to nominees that the Academy just loves to suck up to and if they’re not sucking up to a specific person, they certainly are sucking up to a certain demographic. And don’t even get me started on the dominance Disney has in the animated category that is stifling the potential of Western animated films to explore new boundaries...(Go Anomilisa, by the way! At least you’ll give the Academy some trouble on whom to go for)
Oh there’s even more to say, like how they seem to blow off directors like Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino who’ve shaped the cinematic world, how they dismiss science-fiction and comedy that digs deeper into the hearts of the public than whatever trite sapfest they provide for Best Picture, and still let Woody Allen on the loose. I could cite lengthy papers on how they just seem to not care for black or female, especially when the two of them are together and directing. My word, it would never end if I went into the utter dismissal of the LGBTQ entertainers in cinema when there’s a vast subculture dedicated to them. The more topics that come to mind, the more I feel like curling up in the fetal position and mumbling madly to myself on how entrenched the racism of Hollywood is in regards to their casting choices.
There’s just too much to mention, from personal bias to systematic problems. All of which are sickening in their own right. What of all the problems really is the most sickening though? Perhaps it is the general passivity that is given in response to these criticisms. When I saw that #OscarsSoWhite was trending, I could just hear the jokes that whoever is hosting is going to make to cutely address the elephant in the room, which at this point is roughly the size of the Titanic (be it the box-office gross or the actual vessel, whichever is bigger). It made me want to not watch the show, which I was already planning to do, but it wanted me to do something beyond not watching it. Generally, if there wasn’t conversation going at great lengths about the flaws of the Oscars, there were entertainers making jokes about the lack of diversity. And whether or not they were funny, it highlights the patronizing way that the industry addresses the issue.
I’d feel better if they’d said nothing rather than be cute about it. I would much rather see them go throughout the night enveloped in the shallowness of the glitz and glamour than stand at the podium and deliver half-hearted speeches on social justice. It’s probably not fair of me to be so harsh since some who do go on that podium could very well be justified in talking about it. It’s just that the hypocrisy nauseates me. You could say it’s foolish to care so much about an award show, a construct whose only power rests on a cultural oligarchy’s influence to inflate the ego of others. Not caring about it takes away its power.
I only care because they care. At least they say they do as they brand themselves as champions of progressiveness and inclusivity. I have little leverage in combating the issue. It’d take me a while to get enough recognition to even have an iota of a sway in this, and that’s even assuming that I can break into the scene at all. The big names up top can prove their devotion to the cause much better. Organize a strike, make a petition, or pull a Marlon Brando and have a minority accept the award and berate the Academy’s bigotry. I mean if they want to do that, then they should. Otherwise, they should be blunt with us and make a point that they only want the illusion of diversity. Then that way, I can either imagine myself fighting in the revolt against them or managing to win the lottery-esque odds of being another token minority. Because quite frankly, I’ve got university work to tackle before I can play those cynical Hollywood games.