Presenter: “And the Oscar goes to… another White actor or actress!”
It is the most wonderful time of the year… White Oscar nominations! Announcers Issa Rae (writer, producer and actress) and John Cho (actor and producer) announced 24 predominantly White Oscar categories Jan. 13 via live stream on Oscar.com.
About 116,000 social media users, with 95,000 from Twitter, talked about the annual and prestigious awards show. The sentiment score was 59.7 percent positive and 40.3 percent negative.
“The Joker” (2019), starring Joaquin Phoenix, received 11 nominations (more than any other film from 2019) and in coveted categories such as Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director. Streaming giant Netflix is gaining critical acclaim for their films such as “Marriage Story” (2019), starring Scarlett Johansson (a.k.a., The Asian Transgender Tree) and Adam Driver; and “The Two Popes” (2019), starring Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins. Johansson is nominated for Best Actress, Driver and Pryce for Best Actor and Hopkins for Best Supporting Actor.
Actually, Johansson received two nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, while Lupita Nyong’o played two completely different characters in Jordan Peele’s “Us” (2019). So, where are the fruits of that labor?! Luckily, “Parasite” (2019) and “Hair Love” (2019) were nominated for Best Picture and Best Animated Short Film, respectively. The former is making history by being the first South Korean film to be nominated for Best Picture and Best International Film. The latter, which Refinery29 labeled as “beacon of light amid so much controversy,” is an ode to young Blacks girls and natural hair.
Loved In Non-Challenging Power Roles
While receiving a White Oscar nomination is supposedly a notable acting feat, the award show has received criticism for achieving their lack of racial diversity in various categories. For example, a Nigerian-British actress Cynthia Erivo, is the only woman of color nominated for an acting category thanks to her portrayal as Harriet Tubman in “Harriet” (2019). By the way, Erivo has a notable history of making derogatory comments towards African Americans. However, that is another conversation for another unfortunate time. Her acting received much praise, but many other Black women and non-Black women of color were snubbed such as: Lupita Nyong’o for “Us” (2019); Alfre Woodard for “Clemency” (2019); Jennifer Lopez for “Hustlers” (2019); Awkwafina for “The Farewell” (2019); and Hye-jin Jang and Park So-Dam for “Parasite” (2019). Of course, I am not saying Erivo does not deserve the nomination. However, once again a Black woman is nominated for portraying a slave. The Oscars love people of color; but only when they are suffering, dying in a bittersweet or tragic manner, placed in subordinated positions to Whites, playing the Magical Negro or POC trope, maintaining racial stereotypes, inaccurate portrayals or films that subconsciously preach colorblindness. Just to name a few: “Green Book” (2018), “Roma” (2018), “Hidden Figures” (2016), “The Help” (2011), “12 Years a Slave” (2013), “The Blind Side” (2009), “Blood Diamond” (2006), “Babel” (2006), “The Last Samurai” (2003), “Glory” (1990) and many more. I almost forgot another category, having a White person play the White savior with a White, shiny cape, hair blowing in the wind and a glow surrounding them.
For 91 years, the White Oscars has not learned their lesson on inclusion and diversity. While current White Hollywood considers themselves “progressive” or “liberal,” they still permeate racist stereotypes in entertainment media. It is not like they do not have the mental capacity or capabilities to understand, it is just that they lack the empathy to understand. Part of immersing in empathy requires one to turn the mirror onto themselves (particularly White Hollywood) and ask, “How am I part of the problem?” In White Hollywood’s case, “How am I the oppressor?” Let me drop some knowledge as to why this is happening.
In Robin Diangelo’s “White Fragility” (2018), she addressed why she believes White progressives “cause the most daily damage to people of color” (p. 5). These type of White folk believe they are not racist (e.g., think of the White people in “Get Out” (2017)). You know, the type that says, “I voted for Obama” or “I have Black friends, so I’m not racist.” Diangelo argued due to racial socialization, White people have this sense of internalized superiority to the point it can be subconscious. Even the slightest hint of racial stress (e.g., being White folk being told they did a racist action) can garner defensive responses. This is the definition of “White fragility.”
“The smallest amount of racial stress is intolerable–the mere suggestion that being [W]hite has meaning often triggers a range of defensives responses. These include emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and withdrawal from the stress-inducing situation” (p. 2).
An Exemplar of White Fragility
Diangelo said progressive Whites “can be the most difficult” because they like to demonstrate their arrival to nirvana of self-awareness and colorblind mindset. She elaborated on this concept in her chapter, “The Good/Bad Binary,” that only overtly racist White people are bad racist and being colorblind equates being anti-racist or a good White person. This is similar to the 2019 Oscars. The categories were racially diverse, “Green Book” (2018), “BlacKkKlansman” (2018) and even Marvel’s “Black Panther” (2018) was nominated for Best Picture. The presenters were diverse (as it is this year) as well. However, Best Picture winner “Green Book” (2018) was called out for its White savior narrative. Director Peter Farrelly and co-writer Nick Vallelonga, son of Anthony “Lip” Vallelonga, did not thank the Shirley family until they spoke with journalists backstage, according to USA Today. Nick confirmed Shirley did not want anyone to know about their conversations. However, Mahershala Ali, who portrayed Shirley, did thank Shirley in his speech. Many were still upset about how the situation was handled. Additionally, The Guardian reported Viggo Mortenson said before a screening of the movie, “For instance, no one says ‘nigger’ anymore.” Well, he did and it’s racist.
As stated in a 2018 TIME article, “Despite its early success with audiences, many critics were less enthusiastic, pointing out how the film fit a little too neatly into a history of white savior films, from Blood Diamond [sic] to The Blind Side [sic].”
This is an example of what Diangelo discussed. The White Oscars is a symbol of White fragility at its finest. The only reason why racial diversity was considered critical during the 2019 Oscars was because of the backlash and lack of ratings. White Hollywood did not want to be categorized as a bad White racist because that could ruin a career, except for The Asian Transgender Tree.
There was no genuine motive in this decision-making process, only monetary.
So, I guess congratulations are in order to all the nominees! I wonder if any will speak out against the lack of racial diversity this year. For more information, check out #OscarsSoWhite via Twitter.
The Oscars will air Feb. 9 at 9 p.m. EST on ABC.