The other day, when I was editing Tom’s Oscar Predictions post, I suggested that he might want to make a funny about the Academy’s sterling track record of recognizing black talent. Wikipediaing “Black Academy Award Nominees,” I control-’F'-ed “2010″ to see how they were celebrating the talents of black America this year, and, well, I just never would have guessed the ONE name (out of, what, 200 or so major nominees?) that popped up. Have you guessed? Well you’re wrong. Because apparently the ONE black person nominated for an Academy Award this year was Hailee Steinfeld, better known as the little (white) girl who’s at the center of pretty much all of the scenes in True Grit, which I guess translates to three-fifths of the scenes using the Academy’s rubric, which is why it makes sense that she was ghettoized to the Supporting Actress category? I’d been wondering about that.
Anyway, I just wanted to congratulate the Academy and the North American film industry in general, for…. um…. not using RACIST affirmative action? (Because as everyone knows it’s not exclusion that’s racist, but affirmative action). Look, Academy, you made Clarence Thomas smile.
UPDATE (11 a.m., Tuesday): I thought I’d relay a back and forth I’ve been having with a commenter on this post on Reddit. Hopefully it clarifies any ambiguities anyone might have had about what the intended takeaway from this post was:
Redditor: I fail to see why this is important. If there weren’t any good films put out there with black actors, then there aren’t going to be any nominees. Hate to say, but Tyler Perry isn’t exactly Oscar material.
Me: But why aren’t there any good films out there with black actors? Anyone that’s seen the Wire know that there are plenty “out there.”
Him: There are many reasons why an actor would turn down work. Prior engagements, salary requirements, etc might cause issues. Just because there was one movie this year that featured a “black” actress (who looks very much white, so I am putting that in quotes) doesn’t mean that next year there won’t be predominantly black actors next year. It goes with the natural ebb and flow of the business. Anyone who says otherwise is just trying to cause a stink to get their names in the papers, and helps propagate the racial intolerance across this country. As bad as it is for a white man to get promoted over a black man for his skin color, it is just as bad for a white man to get attacked or passed over for promotion because of his skin.
The issue here isn’t the academy, the issue here is shitty ass internet bloggers are trying to get their names out there, so they make a non-issue out into something that seems catastrophic. Oh no, lets call Al Sharpton because this year a good, black actor didn’t want to work on the right project.
Me: Yeah, total non-representation in a data set of 200 of 12% of the American population just wreaks of being the result of “actors turning down work.” You seriously don’t think this is symptomatic of a deep-rooted cultural problem in America? I totally agree that the Academy should nominate actors for the best performances of the year, but there is something rotten in the state of Denmark (where Denmark is the larger cultural equation).
PS – Did you even read the post? If not, read the last paragraph. If yes, reread the last paragraph.
Him: I read it, and it’s pretty obvious as to what it is. Reread my post, and you will see that I called it out for what it is- bullshit.
12% of the american population may be black, but those 12% aren’t in film. Those 12% aren’t putting the kind of work in to get close to being oscar worthy.
Why don’t we go ahead and complain about all the other actors and actresses that don’t get recognized -ever- by the academy? Oh yeah, because their work is shit.
Me: Your argument is that the world and the academy are a meritocracy? You crazy.
Him: No, my argument is that to be recognized for doing good work, you have to do good work.
I don’t get a plaque for showing up to work every day. Fuck, I don’t even get a raise for showing up to work on a daily basis.
Could we see more black actors in better roles? Sure. Is that going to happen without black actors taking whatever paycheck they get (AKA Madea goes to the drive thru)? Hell no.
Me: Ya. Your life is really hard. Nigger please.
UPDATE: Okay, so I realized that I made a bit of a leap there that might have been a bit hard to follow. My point was that:
(a) Your whole position (even if you don’t realize it) is still premised on the idea that the world tends towards being “fair” (whatever that means)
(b) One can only believe what is not blatantly, undeniably contradicted by one’s own experience.
(c) People that have hard lives know that the idea that the world tends towards being fair is contradicted all over the place in the world, because they’re the ones that get smacked in the face by these contradictions, and therefore…
(d) You’ve had the privilege of not really having a life that’s all that hard. Whatever sucks about it /is/ largely your own doing.
But you can’t be faulted for not having a hard life. That’s not your fault. What you can be faulted for is failing to cultivate the imagination to see that your experience is far from a universal one.
There were no black people nominated by the Academy this year, because, yes, there were disproportinatly few prominent roles in “serious” movies that called for a black person. Why? Because middle, upper middle, and upper class people (aka people with money) don’t tend to buy shit that’s about black people, whether it’s good or bad. If there isn’t a clear market for something among the people with money, it’s going to be hard to get the money together to finance a product. Don’t believe me that this happens? A nice little case study is the ratings difference between the “white” season of the wire (season 2), and the subsequent even better but black season of the wire (season 3). That’s just one example.
The laziness and poor decision making of black actors are far from the primary factors here. And frankly, it’s racist as hell of you to suggest that they are.
So far that last comment has gotten a downvote but no response. To be fair, I only added the update this morning.