This evening is Oscar night, and I’m having none of it.
This is a turn of events from last year. Last year, I engaged in America’s pasttime of preparing for an awards show that has a narrow scope of what’s talented. In 2013, I’d spent January and February watching all films nominated for “Best Picture.” I then wrote a piece reflecting on the representations of people of color in these nominated films. I’d done this in the spirit of preparing for my BFF’s Oscar’s party, and it was an interesting experience. While I was disappointed in some of the outcomes, it felt fun being a part of the discussion. This year, however, I (and my BFF) just couldn’t get wrapped up in the glitsy shenanigans of the Academy’s ritual of playing favorites.
There was a period of time when things were looking interesting for Black cinema (unfortunately, I can’t say things have ever looked so hot for other communities of color). Fruitvale Station, 12 Years a Slave, and The Butler, were all getting accolades from the powers-that-be, and it looked like the Oscars were going to be integrated this year. I was excited to see various Black actors and actresses, as well as Black directors and producers, getting attention for their work in telling our stories, and I thought I was going to see more brown faces at this year’s Oscars.
But, we all know what happened next. Frutivale Station and The Butler got no love from The Golden Globes or The Oscars, and most of the films that have been deemed most noteworthy are ones that I’d only watch on an international flight. While I always knew the Oscars were not intended for me, it became glaringly obvious when this year’s nominations came out, and the Oscars basically said: “I know we can’t use the excuse that there weren’t any Black films to nominate for 2013, but let’s be real, we only have room for one Black film this year… and every other year.”
I wouldn’t say that I’m never going to watch the Academy Awards again, but this year, I simply don’t have the energy to pretend this isn’t an exclusive event. The politics of award shows are tiresome, and as Holden Caulfield would say, “phony.” Maybe 12 Years a Slave will win, and this will feel like justice for some folks. Meanwhile, I’m wondering when Hollywood will reflect it’s own geographical location– diverse in its people, stories, and potential. And then I wonder, if such wonderings are in vain. Hollywood wasn’t created for us, so is it silly for me to project such high expectations of inclusivity and variety?
Afterthought: As I was reviewing my reflection about last year’s nominations for “Best Picture,” I had noted that two films that were nominated, Django Unchained and Lincoln, were ones about slavery. This year’s “Black spot” went to 12 Years a Slave. I find it interesting that we are a nation that can’t talk about slavery in an authentic way in most forums, but we seem to like to watch it on the big screen.