Read this article for more complete details, but the simple reality is that racism was so deeply ingrained in American life, and in every aspect of Hollywood, that the first black winner of an Oscar wasn’t even able to attend the premiere of her own movie.
When you see people complaining about racism as though nothing has improved because of the lack of black nominees this year, take a minute to think about that. Can you imagine Will Smith, Oprah Winfrey, or Samuel Jackson being denied admission anywhere, for any reason?
With that said (and please, do read the article, it’s worth the time), the real issue isn’t the lack of non-white nominees in 2016. he real problem is the lack of decent parts being given to people who are not already proven to have a huge following, and women who are not young with perfect figures. Don’t misunderstand me – I do understand that a big name can bring big money, but the big studios pay out like having one of the truly big names guarantees both a stellar performance and a big profit. It does not.
Sure, there are a few who aren’t white (Denzel Washington and Will Smith spring to mind) and a few women who are no longer young (Judi Dench and Helen Mirren, I’m thinking of you!), but for every example like that, there is a Jack Nicholson who continued to play the “young” lead decades after any woman would have been playing a mom or grandma. (Goldie Hawn’s character in The First Wives Club gives a great portrayal of being a female actress in Hollywood; Whoopie Goldberg in The Associate takes on the finance world, but being a studio executive in Hollywood is not dissimilar.)
We vote to continue this. We vote every time we go to the movie theater and see yet another “blockbuster” with an aging male action star and a hot young blonde who needs saved. We vote for it every time we skip over Black-ish and watch the Kardashians. There are tens of thousands of movies, at least, available on Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services, plus DVDs we can buy or borrow from the library. (Yes, you can borrow movies, for free, from most local public libraries.) Stop paying $15-$20 or more per person to see the newest stereotype-reinforcing pile of poo from the big studios!
I won’t accuse the Divergent movie series of being the most original I’ve ever seen, but I do love seeing a powerful young woman as a lead character. Why do they have that? Because another studio made big money off of The Hunger Games and this was their answer. If people hadn’t gone, en masse, to watch The Hunger Games, they would have just come out with more action flicks featuring men.
Studios are risk averse. They won’t change unless they are forced into it. As long as their current formula makes them money, it will remain their formula. If you want to see more diverse movies, then start buying, renting, and borrowing Bollywood movies, telenovelas, foreign films, anime – whatever interests you. Do you know what your local library will do if they don’t have Bollywood movies but you ask and get others interested enough to ask? They will decide they need to buy…Bollywood movies. The same is true of any other specific movie or kind of movies. They make purchasing decisions based, in part, on what people request.
The best way to honor the memory of Hattie McDaniels and all those who have suffered under racism in Hollywood is to simply choose to buy, rent, and borrow diverse movies.