After watching most of the films that were nominated for the major awards, Long Walk to Freedom, 12 Years A Slave, Wolf of Wall Street etc, I am now ready to form opinions on the state of Hollywood.
I guess I should’ve known with the first awards being presented at the Golden Globes, exactly what to expect from the ceremony, but even so, this was just such a disappointment that reinforced the fact that Hollywood is jarringly averse to diversity. To put it bluntly, it is intrinsically racist. It does not seek to confront the past by embracing the future, as Reese Witherspoon so eloquently put it in her introduction of 12 Years A Slave, rather it seeks to enforce ideologies of the past by its current practises that will still have the same impact on the future. Its been doing this for years.
Hollywood cannot embrace Black culture. It is just that simple. There is something about Blackness that makes Hollywood uncomfortable. Something about our stories that makes it less willing to acknowledge our place at the table. Its a shitty state of affairs if you ask me.
After watching 12 Years A Slave and American Hustle, which I wasn’t really sure I was going to watch initially, I can categorically say that Jennifer Lawrence winning over Lupita Nyong’o was a snob of epic proportions from The Hollywood Foreign Press. And I have mad love for JLaw but Nyong’o’s performance outclassed hers by a mile, even if they were different genres. In my opinion, American Hustle, a loosely based adaptation of the Abscam Scandal, is a movie that served its purpose; to entertain. It didn’t leave me feeling any different. I liked it; its a good movie but its ultimately just one of those movies that will become less relevant as the years pass. But 12 Years A Slave, not so much. Maybe never. And for a long time after I watched it, I still haven’t forgotten it.
I love Robin Wright, I love her on House of Cards, but Kerry Washington was robbed in my opinion but its not just mine its a lot of others as well. Scandal happens to be the most exciting programme on TV right now and possibly the most watched, globally. Both women are equally as powerful in their characters but you only have to look at the social media traction to grasp impact of Scandal. House of Cards was not nearly as engaging as Scandal is, its exciting, don’t get me wrong, but not nearly as engaging when it comes to audience interaction. On the other hand, character and story-wise, I still would’ve preferred Julianna Margolis to win over Robin Wright because she is so goddamn GOOD on The Good Wife. If you don’t watch it you really should start.
Its not even just about race, there is the glaring sexism that is rampant in Hollywood; remember when Kathryn Bigelow won the Oscar for Best Director for Hurt Locker, the first woman ever to win it in eighty-two years? Let that sink in. The fact that she beat out her ex-husband trumped conversation over how ludicrous it is that women are still so unrecognised when it comes to their roles behind the cameras and in the Director/Producer seats in Hollywood, never mind how powerful the film was.
When women win, especially outside of their usual categories, its unexpected.
When a Black person wins, its almost unheard of. It only took some seventy odd years for Halle Berry to win an Oscar. She remains the first and only Black woman to have won an Academy for Best Actress in its eighty five year history. Again, let that sink in. We’ve faired better, somewhat, in the Supporting role awards, ironically.
And Matthew McConaughey? Really? Especially in a category that had Chiwetel Ejiofor and Idris Elba two actors who starred in two of the most powerful and most poignant films in cinematic history. Two of the most critically acclaimed films of the year. Call me biased but that was another snob for the books. As was the exclusion of The Butler and Fruitvale Station from the Globes all together. Again if you haven’t watched both films you so definitely should.
There is also the misplaced adulation of certain questionable characters; Woody Allen makes people uncomfortable so I have no idea why Hollywood insists on shoving him in our faces. I saw Blue Jasmine and it is a powerful piece of cinema, but the Woody Allen adoration is unsettling. Same with the romanticising of Roman Polanski, the rapist. And listen, I’m glad Leo won something but this was not the right movie, The Wolf of Wall Street is at best a glorification of a culture that ruined lives NOT a cautionary tale as it should have been. Jordan Belfort is a despicable character and this movie glorifies his destructive ways.
Hollywood wants to profit from our stories but does not want to acknowledge our talent. I despise the fact that every time a Black person wins a “mainstream” award it is hailed as a giant leap forward for the industry when in fact its simply atrocious that an industry that should be front and centre of diversity has yet to grasp its concepts. It is loathsome that Hollywood is still averse to more female Directors or Producers, almost unwilling to recognise them and there is such a reluctance to precipitate action or dialogue to thwart this stifling culture in the Industry. An industry women bring Billions of dollars to. Its no secret, being a woman in Hollywood is no walk in the park, the pressure to keep up, the pressure to stay young, look a certain way, its brutal. By age thirty you are as good as done, ready for the Lifetime Achievement award and preparing to be put to pasture. Only a few survive and in that few we’ll be hard pressed to find a Black woman there.
Should it really matter than the mainstream industry continues to perpetuate the tenets of racism? Should we even care that they continue to ignore us? Yes we should, I say. Simply because Hollywood is supposed to be the nucleus of pop culture and such culture should be ALL inclusive NOT selective. Not to suit a certain group of people at a certain time. More than anything, this is about acknowledgement that our work matters, that as a race our stories too are poignant and no matter how uncomfortable it makes certain people feel, they have to be told and it is time for this long overdue recognition, not validation, but recognition that our stories should serve as a reminder of the past and propel us to build a better future. Its about damn time.
Yay for Steve McQueen though and Lupita Nyong’o at the Critics Choice Awards. Here’s looking at you Oscars.