#OscarSoWhite yet again but ignores the larger problem

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Another Oscar season, another reminder of how far Hollywood has to go in recognizing talent in movie-making. For the second year in a row, Twitter-users have used the hastag #Oscarsowhite to express their anger and frustration that the most prestigious movie-making awards show continues to ignore excellence by people of color.

It is no secret, the people who make the decisions on which actors and movies to nominate are old, white men who are so blinded by age and race, they refuse to recognize excellence in acting or movie-making because the actors and characters do not look like them. They refuse to recognize that the United States is rapidly browning and younger generations of African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans and Middle Easterners want to see characters on screen that look like us and for Hollywood to recognize our talent. The fact that the current Academy President is black woman, Cheryl Boone is a bad joke that no one is falling for.

But this only addresses part of the problem. In principle I share the outrage in yet again another blatant exclusion of people of color. But in actuality there is a bigger problem. In the Academy’s defense, they cannot nominate what does not exist and while the success of Creed, Straight Outta Compton and Beasts of No Nation should be recognized, Hollywood has become creatively stagnant. Movie studios will not take risks with the stories they green light.

This is bad enough for movies regardless of race, but for movies with black casts, this means only stories that do not threaten the eurocentric dominion over powerful storytelling are green-lit. It’s why a movie like “The Forest” gets green-lit, which sensationalizes suicides in the Aokigahara forest near Mt. Fuji in Japan with a white cast gets green lit, but Danny Glover struggles to get funding for a movie about Toussaint and the Haitian Revolution because the movie does not have any ‘white heroes.’ Ideally, movie theaters should be filled with stories of all kinds about people of color, about black, Latino, Asian and Native American empowerment, stories written, produced, directed and starred in by us, sans the necessary ‘white hero.’ People of color make up nearly half of moviegoers, it is ludicrous that the movie industry excludes our stories.

Social media is ripe with articles and blogs listing the many movies with predominantly black casts and black and Latino actors that deserved an Oscar nod. Jada Pinkett Smith even debated boycotting the Oscars altogether. There should be no question about this. If you do not like what you see (or don’t see) on screen, do not watch. If hardly anyone watches the 2016 Oscars, that would send a huge message–in the form of lost money.

Frankly, I have not gotten excited about the Oscars since 2003 when the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King FINALLY got the Oscar for Best Picture that it should have been awarded in 2001 and 2002. One of my dream movies is a franchise of fantasy/sci-fi movies with a black cast. So until we address the death of creativity in Hollywood right now, #Oscarssowhite feels extraneous.


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