The Life

Jada, the Oscars, & The Artist’s Recognition

The Academy
The Academy

It’s been less than a week since the Academy Awards announced its nominees for the 2016 Academy Awards last Thursday, January 14.  But it didn’t take long for fans to notice the glaring lack of diversity:

For the second year in a row, there were no people of color nominated for Academy Awards in any of the major categories, prompting social media to react with a continuation of last year’s #OscarsSoWhite campaign: #OscarsStillSoWhite.”

-from a CNN article by Lisa Respers France, updated earlier today

The weekend was filled with posts, blogs, tweets, and more expressing concern (and concern at the concern) over not just the nominee list, but also the academy’s demographics, which is predominantly white male, with the median age of the Oscar voters being 62.

Things had begun to simmer down on Sunday, with newer trending topics to discuss.  But on Monday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Jada Pinkett Smith released her video statement, urging African-Americans to embrace their own power.  She concluded by stating she would not be attending or viewing the Academy Awards.

Soon after, reports swirled, claiming Smith and Spike Lee were urging stars to boycott the Academy Awards.

And now, everyone is weighing in, including Janet Hubert, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s original Aunt Viv; George ClooneyDavid Oyelowo; and Stacey Dash.  Conversations that originally centered on the Oscars nominee list have spiraled out into larger discussions of minority representation and acknowledgement.

But where do I stand?

I don’t really care for award shows.  What I like, I like.  What I don’t, I don’t.  My opinion isn’t swayed by the masses.  And the performances are not what they used to be.

I support the right to boycott.  It bothers me when people encourage others not to boycott — to not do what they feel convicted to do, for whatever reason (although the #1 Reason For Not Boycotting that I hate to hear the most is It’s Not Going to Matter to Anyone In Power Anyway).  

Jason Merritt/Getty Images
Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Although she did ignore the elephant in the room (whether her response was fueled by the Academy’s snub of Concussion, starring her husband Will Smith), Pinkett Smith’s video poses questions that we should all consider.

But after watching Dash’s response, I wonder if Pinkett Smith should have refrained from making a public statement.  I wish Lee and other potential boycotters (although Lee now says he didn’t ever use the word boycott) had utilized Word of Mouth to encourage their peers to not attend.  What I’ve noticed is that viral announcements of actions beforehand allow too many people to offer too many opinions.  It may have made a bigger, better statement if people who were expected to show up just didn’t.  After the Awards, then an announcement could have been made, explaining why they didn’t attend and how they plan to move forward.

Moving forward is the key that is often forgotten.  What happens next?

One thing I’ve appreciated in most of the discourse surrounding the Oscars is that just about everyone has added something to think about when considering moving forward (it’s hard, though, to hear some of the positives beneath the shade-y statements of some, like Hubert and Dash, but it’s there!)

Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs has released a statement saying the Academy will conduct a review of their Academy membership recruitment.  In the comments section below her statement, someone suggested having diversity quotas (I’m not a fan of Affirmative Action and would prefer a statistically diverse group sincerely vote than the Academy as is nominating certain actors and films just to placate the minority).

But it’s also important for artist (of any race) to consider what they can do.  Could they decide not to submit the their work for consideration (what a statement!)?  Could they create a new award, with a different, more diverse and realistic committee for a new award and then hold it in higher esteem (this would take time!)?

As an artist myself, (although nowhere near as public), I’ve found it’s important for me to remember what I’m doing and who I’m doing it for.  I don’t hold much stock in awards or publications (of course, this is easier for me since I have none of either).  When I finish this thesis and/or do begin actively engaging in the literary world, I hope my own fulfillment and the satisfaction of my reader remains what’s most important.

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