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oscars so white

There were a couple of history making moments in this year's Oscar nominations. For the first time ever, a streaming service had more nominations than a traditional studio. Boon Jong-Ho's Parasite made history as the first-ever best picture nomination for a Korean film. But when it comes to nominating female directors and people of color, it's business as usual.

Issa Rae said what a lot of us are feeling when she announced the nominees alongside John Cho. After reading the all-male nominees for best picture, Rae deadpanned, "Congratulations to those men." Bong Joon-Ho was the only director of color nominated.


It's surprising that women were shut out of the Best Director category, considering we've the highest number of female directors in over a decade. A study by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found that, 10.6% of the top movies were directed by women in 2019.

There were so many women who were discussed as possible contenders for the Oscar. Greta Gerwig (Little Women), Lulu Wang (The Farewell), Marielle Heller (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Lorene Scafaria (Hustlers), Kasi Lemmons (Harriet),Alma Har'el(Honey Boy), Jennifer Lee (Frozen II), Melina Matsoukas (Queen & Slim), and Olivia Wilde (Booksmart)are just some of the women who could have been nominated for the award. But at the end of the day, the nominations contained a lot of familiar (and male) names.

Some people think that female directors didn't get a fair shot. "It's a completely unconscious bias. I don't think it's anything like a malicious rejection," Amy Pascal, who produced Little Women, told Vanity Fair. "I don't think that [men] came to the screenings in droves, let me put it that way," Pascal said. "And I'm not sure when they got their [screener] DVDs that they watched them."

The Oscars have a pretty bad track record when it comes to female directors. In the 92-year history of the Academy Awards, only five women have been nominated for Best Director. Kathryn Bigelow made history in 2009 when she became the only woman to win an Oscar for directing The Hurt Locker.

The lack of inclusion in this year's Oscars was highlighted in the acting nominees, making it another year of #Oscarssowhite. Cynthia Erivo was the only person of color nominated for an acting award for her portrayal of Harriet Tubman in Harriet.

And it's not because there wasn't anyone else worthy of being nominated. Jennifer Lopez had Oscar-buzz around her for her role in Hustlers. Lupita Nyong'o for her role in Us and Eddie Murphy for his portrayal of Rudy Ray Moore in My Name is Dolemite were other possible Oscar contenders. But they didn't even nominate Awkwafina, who won a Golden Globe for her performance in The Farewell.

People on Twitter weren't happy about the nominations (and the snubs).










It would be one thing if the Academy had no other options besides Martin Scorsese and Quinten Tarantino, but that's not the case. We don't live in a world where only one voice gets to speak. We're hearing many stories from many different voices. It's time award shows enter the 21st century and give other voices a shot.

Yes, Chris Rock went there.

He took the elephant in the room by the trunk and pulled it center stage for all the world to see at this year's Oscars. And he raised some excellent points.


But really ... was anyone surprised?


In case you missed the memo, the Oscars were inexcusably white this year — for the 88th year.

This was the second year in a row that every single slot for every single acting nomination — all 20 of them — were filled by a white actor or actress. The same exact thing happened in 2015.

Actor Eddie Redmayne, who won best actor in a leading role in 2015, was nominated this year for his role in "The Danish Girl." Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images.

Clearly, Rock — whose clever, blunt commentary on race helped build his legendary career in comedy — was the perfect guy for the hosting job this year. It seemed like fate.

As Salon's Andrew O'Hehir put it, the 2016 Oscars were "arguably the moment that Rock’s entire career has pointed toward."And he didn't disappoint.

During his opening monologue, Rock wasted no time diving in on the touchy subject in a room filled with (mostly white) famous faces.

Although he said a few things that raised eyebrows for the wrong reasons (like half-heartedly joking that the Oscars' diversity problem isn't a "real [thing] to protest"), he hit the nail on the head getting at the heart of the issue:

“Is Hollywood racist? You know — you got to go at that the right way. Is it burning-cross racist? No. Is it fetchme some lemonade racist? No, no. It’s a different type of racist.”

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

Rock told the story of when he was at a fundraiser for Barack Obama filled with Hollywood heavyweights and joked to the president while taking a photo with him that not even the most progressive people in the film industry actually hire people of color.

“I’m like, Mr. President, you see all these writers and producers and actors? They don’t hire black people. And they’re the nicest white people on earth. They’re liberals. Cheese!”

“Is Hollywood racist? You're damn right Hollywood is racist.”

Rock got it right. A lack of diversity at the Oscars is the result of a much larger systemic problem in Hollywood.

Yes, the Academy itself has a diversity problem — the vast majority of its voting members are older, white, and male, which certainly doesn't help in ensuring people of color are recognized. But the problem runs deeper than that.

Photo by David McNew/Getty Images.

Movies that are made by and feature people of color aren't getting produced in Hollywood.

(Or at least not at the rates they should be.)

This is a big factor in why there are far fewer roles for non-white actors, thus fewer opportunities to be nominated for an Oscar.

Why is this the case? Well, for starters, studios are hesitant to take bets on movies they deem financially risky. And potential films that deviate from the norm by being carried by a black character — or, say, an LGBT lead, or a cast with predominantly women — can scare these (mostly straight, white guy) producers away simply because they're different.

Never mind there are many examples that suggest this line of thinking gets it wrong, like last year's "Straight Outta Compton" and "Spy" — two films that tore up at the box office. But the reality is, movies made by and starring people of color are still relatively few and far between, which doesn't bode well for diversity come award show season.

Actors in "Straight Outta Compton," a film many thought was largely snubbed at this year's Oscars. Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

It also doesn't help that when storylines featuring people of color actually do make it onto the big screen, Hollywood has an ugly habit of filling the role with a white actor. This is called "whitewashing" and it's been happening for generations (from Elizabeth Taylor playing "Cleopatra" in 1963 to, more recently, Rooney Mara playing Tiger Lily in "Pan").

The buildup to Rock's hosting was almost palpable, as the comedian — never shy about speaking his mind — had pretty much kept mum.

It must've had more to do with him building hype than not having two cents to give. Because as his past comments on Oscars diversity show, he's not one to keep quiet on relevant subject matter.

Chris Rock as host of the Academy Awards in 2005. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.

"If there’s a lot of black people [at the Oscars], I will host the show again,” he joked on “Late Show With David Letterman” after hosting in 2005. “There were a lot of black people that night. Jamie Foxx, Morgan [Freeman], Beyoncé — it was like the Def Oscar Jam.”

This year, Rock kept a relatively low profile on the controversy leading up to Sunday night, referring to the Oscars as "the white BET Awards" in one tweet and sharing a mysteriously vague #Blackout message in another.


The good news with all of this? Rock's monologue is part of a wave of (deserved) criticism demanding better of Hollywood.

Last year, when every acting category was filled with white actors, the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite swept the web, drawing attention to the issue. The hashtag resurfaced this year, bigger and better than before and drawing renewed attention to this problem.

The Academy heard the outcry and has taken some steps in diversifying its membership, which one can only hope will reflect in the artists nominated down the road.

"We are going to continue to take action and not just speak," Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Academy president, said during the event's red carpet coverage.

Many, many actors (of all colors) also have spoken out on the issue, too, saying big changes are very necessary.

But until that change comes, we have Rock's two cents.