Sunday, February 22, 2015

My Oscar Rant: Hollywood's Problem is Hollywood

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I'm a Hollywood outsider that didn't that didn't watch the 2015 Oscars broadcast. I don't think I've watched them for the past five years. I do my best not to watch most if not all award shows. Every once and awhile I slip up and get sucked back in. It's a relapse that comes from all my years of being a die hard T.V. viewer. Although I didn't watch I did follow a bit of the action on Twitter. It's my go to, to stay in the now when it comes to news, celebrity and politics. It was on fire with Oscar buzz from the night's nominees, award winners, and the dynamic speeches. Patricia Arquette got her props last night at the awards and on social media.

Although I don't watch the Oscars, the media attention, influence, and significance it has in our lives doesn't escape me. Media matters. After all, I was following many conversations and news updates via Twitter for about an hour. It's why I feel like I need to rant. While many have had much to say about this year's Oscar "white out," I'm going to add my two cents. The snub of David Oyelowo's in the Best Actor category and Ava DuVernay's in the Best Director field drew me into on and offline discussions about the lack of diversity at this year's Oscars. 

After having time to link about the lack of nominations of minorities this year, I had to stop, pause, and ask myself what makes this different from other years. Lets get real, the nominations for people of color have always been lacking. I consider a good year when the actor/actress of color actually wins. For me it's a much bigger issue that doesn't stop with the Motion Picture of Arts Academy (MPAA), their diversity problem is a small microcosm of an epidemic problem in Hollywood that has always marginalized people of color. For minorities, it's always been "get in, where you can fit in." There's also plenty of data to support this unfortunate reality.

The 2014 Hollywood Diversity Report: Making Sense of the Disconnect is the latest to substantiate troubling trends within the industry. The report's findings highlighted:
  • Minorities collectively accounted for 36.3 percent of the U.S. population in 2010, they were un-derrepresented by a factor of more than 3 to 1 among lead roles in the films examined.
  • Minorities directed 12.2 percent of the 172 films examined for 2011which means they were underrepresented by a factor of about 3 to 1 among the corps of film directors.
  • Female actors/performers claimed just 37.2 percent of all lead roles in cable comedies and dramas during the 2011-12 season compared to males at 62.8 percent. 
Other industry studies have also reflected  Hollywood's lack of diversity in key areas such as writing and producing. Let's not forget the Sony hack that put prejudice and bigotry front and center as well as the fact that women actors are not paid equally to their male counterparts. Last time I checked both males and females act. It takes talent, skill, dedication, and hard work regardless of your sex/gender. Sony may have gotten caught with their hand in the cookie jar, but I don't doubt those emails and attitudes exist within all the studios.

Hollywood's diversity problem is Hollywood. They are people trying to change it, but there aren't enough diversity problems to right the wrongs of institutionalized racist practices that continue to disadvantage people of color and women. As America continues increase it's diversity I wonder when and how old systems will evolve to meet the needs of new audiences. 

In the end it's a business and if audience's don't feel like they're getting value, they will stop going to the theater. That shift is already happening for other reasons like the lack of authentic and new stories that make it to the big screen. Movies these days seem to be books with a built in audience, Marvel Comics, or past hits that get a refresh. 

I still go to the theater and love the experience, but it's probably three to four times a year. I used to go once a month. Life has gotten in the way, however, these days I prefer the storytelling I see online on streaming networks like Netflix and Amazon or cable networks like HBO, Showtime, and AMC.

I really wonder what it's going to take for Hollywood insiders to stop and look at themselves and as Spike Lee would say, "Do the right thing." Last night, Neil Patrick made fun of the Oscar's "white out" and while I get the joke, I don't really find the situation funny. It's tired. It's old. It's time for real change.

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