Heated debate and controversy has been sparked over the release of Oscar nominees for 2016. Due to the lack of racial diversity director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett-Smith have threatened to boycott the Oscars which has caused a stir among the academy.
Jada Pinkett-Smith has opened eyes with her declaration of a boycott. For two years running the list of Oscar nominees has been predominantly white which has led to accusations of misconduct and favouritism against the academy. The Oscars voting committee has more than 6,000 members, yet despite the numbers, 93% are white Caucasians while 76% are male. With such a lack of diversity in the committee, the academy has been forced to review its recruitment processes to correct these issues.
“Forty white actors in two years and no flava at all. We can’t act?! WTF!!” Noted director Spike Lee stated. Pinkett-Smith’s husband, Will Smith was a challenger for the best actor nomination for his role in Concussion but failed to reach the top five.
Yet despite the open support for the boycott campaign, Pinkett-Smith and Lee have come under fire from prominent individuals within the African-American community. When the topic of discussion on the TV panel show, the view turned to the Oscar boycott, matters took a turn for the dramatic. The host Whoopi Goldberg expressed her outrage, deftly pointing out that noted comedian and actor Chris Rock is scheduled to host the 2016 event. “So to boycott him seems just as bad as what everybody’s saying.”
Janet Hubert, notably known for having worked with Will Smith on the Fresh Prince of Bel Air slammed Pinkett-Smith with a Facebook video. Hubert questions the couple’s motivations and displays them as frivolous by comparing them to serious issues afflicting many people throughout the world such as starvation and war. “You ain’t Barack and Michelle Obama. And you all need to get over yourselves.”
Lee in addition was also questioned over his motives, last November the acclaimed director was honoured with an Oscar at the Governors Ball despite his film, Chi-Raq having received no nominations.
Despite the lack of diversity in the list of nominees for the past two years, there is a significant amount of African American involvement in the academy. Despite the statistics favouring a majority of white men, the president of the academy is an African American woman, Cheryl Boone Isaacs. Since her appointment in 2013, she has been on a recruitment campaign to update and improve the way the committee makes its decisions. “The change is not coming as fast as we would like,” she said. “We need to do more, and better, and more quickly.”
Beyond the past two years, the last time the list of Oscar nominees was comprised entirely of white Caucasians was in 1996. That year featured films such as Braveheart, Apollo 13 and Sense and Sensibility. Despite the lack of diversity, there was little to no outcry on the issue of an exclusively vanilla list. Even so, the lack of African American presence in this year’s nomination list has highlighted more than just racial stigma. All the screenwriters and directors for this year’s Oscars are all men. In 87 years since the Oscars inception, only four women have been nominated for director spots. This presents a serious problem, with a skewed male dominated viewpoint, women of any colour will be forever at a disadvantage until this issue is resolved.