Hollywood claims to have listened. So will this be the last’ white’ Oscars?
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The Academy Awards in Los Angeles have been mired in accusations of racism. The occasion is a reflection of a nation and as America changes, so might they
Few comedians and none as virtuoso at uncovering prejudices have been given a stage as politically primed as the one Chris Rock will command as host of Sundays Academy Awards.
Hollywood, a company township that loves the audio of political correctness if not the reality of equality, has for six weeks been turned upside down by accusations of institutional racism after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences failed to nominate a single minority performer for the second year in a row.
Even if this is as some have argued road traffic accidents of bad timing, the tradition-bound organization has sleep-walked into the diversity issue in the midst of a neurotic, election-year referendum on the nations first black president.
The Academy has reacted. Since the #OscarsSoWhite disputeover diversity and racial representation broke out in January, it has taken steps to even out representation at the body. New regulations, announced at the end of January, include a commitment to double the number of women and ethnic minority members of the Academy by 2020.
But will this be enough to reform the Oscars and could tonights ceremony be the last white version of the famous awards ceremony? The problems may be more deep-rooted than that, in an entire industry where decision-makers are overwhelmingly male and white.
Rock, who first hosted the Oscars a decade ago and who called Hollywood a white industryin a 2014 essay, has been practising his lines in a local slapstick club. Pay inequality, the glut of superhero movies, the Kardashians the business is hardly short on comedic material. But nothing goes close to race and no one is talking about anything else.
Entertainment trade magazine Variety reported that Rocks routine included a gag about the celebrity couple boycotting the awardings Will Smith, denied a nomination for Concussion , and spouse Jada Pinkett Smith, who have quoted systemic racism in the industry as their reason for their non-attendance. Sadly, that gag may never be heard; its punchline is considered too lewd to get past the Oscar censors.
What could be most telling, says Dr Darnell Hunt, prof of sociology and director of the Ralph J Bunche Center for African American Survey, who co-authored UCLAs recently released 2016 Hollywood Diversity Report, is what happens after Rock skewers Hollywood on race and gender discrimination and the applause dies down.