Why #OscarsSoWhite Is More Than Just a Hashtag In My Home

Did any Black people win last night, mommy?

This was the first question out of my daughter the morning after the Golden Globe awards. Thankfully, I could answer yes, knowing that at the age of seven, she would be content with only one actress winning a Globe, and the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement award going to a Black man.

You may be shocked that a seven year old is even thinking about such things, but representation of her race is important to my daughter, and it should be. I’ve taught her that, because I can’t give her “blackness” (forgive me for lack of a better description) so she has to search for it elsewhere – her friends, her activities, her entertainment, her neighbourhood – all of these areas of her life serve as surrogate racial models for my daughter because I can’t. I wish I could, but I knew before I adopted her the only thing I can do is teach her as best I can to watch and learn from other sources in addition to what I regurgitate for her from my own research. It matters to her to see herself, in both her race and her adoption, represented in the real world.

In the past six years, I’ve pushed through many moments of my own discomfort to try to learn about struggles that I have never experienced as a white women protected with a coat of white privilege. I’ve tried to educate myself as much as I possibly can on what white privilege is and what I, as a white person, can do to become an ally to people of colour in ways that people of colour have shared are relevant to them.

As a stay-at-home mother initially, and now a work-at-home mother, often my simplest and most readily-available form of me-time recreation has been watching movies. I love movies. Especially the season of excellent quality films following Christmas up until summer blockbuster season. For six years, I’ve obsessively watched all Oscar-quality movies, made my own predictions, attempted to see all or most of the nominated performances and then watched the award shows and live-tweeted during those shows. I’ve voiced my disappointment over the lack of diversity both in Hollywood and in the nominations and winners of the awards, but I’ve never really done much more about it; armchair slactivism at its worst. I won’t lie – I’ve loved being a part of it all and didn’t really think I could do much more than just express my disappointment.

Until now.

This year, for the second year in a row, there are no Black actor or actress nominees. Nor Supporting Actor or Actress nominees. Not a single Black actor was deemed worthy of a nomination by a mostly white, male institution. Not many people of colour in general, in any category, for that matter. Yet The Academy figured they had it all balanced by contracting Chris Rock to host the show.

I’m pissed about it all.

Yet, I’m also to blame.

And so are you.

HEAR ME OUT, before you start rolling your eyes and complaining that Will Smith and his wife are just whining that he didn’t get a nomination.

We continue to support these award shows by watching them. That’s how they make money and what indirectly continues to feed the vicious circle of racism – we support movies featuring more white actors than people of colour in more white stories than stories about people of colour, we watch award shows to reward more of the white actors and actresses so they will continue to get more white parts in more white movies. What’s worse is that we also continue to complacently accept white actors playing characters who weren’t originally white.

No more.

I am not going to actively teach my daughter about racial equity with my words and then completely confuse her by exemplifying with my actions what white privilege is all about. I refuse to let her believe that it’s ok to watch award shows that disrespect the talent and effort of people of colour.

It’s not ok.

How can I look my daughter in the eye when she asks me the morning after the Oscars if any Black actors won and tell her “No, darling. There weren’t any nominated. But mommy still watched and enjoyed the show like I always have.”

I can’t do it.

I won’t do it.

And personally, I’d like to know how Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Sandra Bullock, Charlize Theron, Hugh Jackman, Madonna, and even one of the Grand Poobahs of Hollywood, Steven Spielberg, along with other Hollywood royal members are going to explain to THEIR children of colour how and why they supported an institution that doesn’t respect the efforts of their child’s race?

I can’t do that to my daughter nor can I disrespect the talented people of colour who put out high-quality work in Hollywood without the same opportunities or recognition that white people receive.

So, for the first time in my adult life, I will not be watching the Academy Awards this year.

(Those who know me or at least are friends with me on Facebook and read my frequent status movie reviews are going “WHOAAA!” right now, while the rest of you are probably going “Who gives a shit?” and that’s just fine by me.)

Going forward, I will also be choosing the films I spend money to watch with a far greater intention; I will be actively looking for movies that feature stories about people of colour, that star people of colour and are written and/or produced by people of colour.

Adopting my daughter helped open my eyes to my own white privilege and continuously forces me to confront it, own it and acknowledge it in my everyday life. I’m thankful every day for her presence in my life and I owe her and all people of colour to do what I can.

Oh sure, it may seem like no big deal to you, and in a harsh world of so many societal problems, some may be inclined to write off the importance of “a little gold statue”. Thankfully, I’ve also learned that just because something isn’t important to me, that doesn’t give me the right to invalidate its importance to others. Nor does it allow me to dismiss the greater societal issues behind that little gold statue. Everyone deserves recognition for a job well done – would we dismiss a teacher or doctor asking for equal recognition for equal work performance? Of course not. The Oscars may not matter to you, but it matters to the people who work at providing movies for entertainment. ALL of the people, not just the white ones.

My daughter knows how much I love movies and how Oscar night has been a VERY BIG DEAL for me in the past, so I’m making my stand in a way that I know is meaningful to her. I don’t expect my position to have any impact on Hollywood and their institutionalized racism, but quite frankly, I’m not doing it for them.

#OscarsSoWhite

 

The Oscars Are Getting With The Program!

Everyone who knows me knows that I love movies and look forward to the Oscars for months before they arrive.

This year, it was SO worth the anticipation!

Ellen DeGeneres was a superb host.  Funny, without being mean, lively, but annoyingly so, and the best part?  SO interactive with the celebrity audience.

Smart woman – she knows we don’t tune in just to watch her for 3.5 hours, as amazing as she is.

Here are my Top Ten things that I LOVED about yesterday’s Oscars:

1.  The dresses – well, DUH!  Isn’t that a huge reason why many tune in? When I see gorgeous celebrities wearing long sleeves and demure necklines, just for a few moments, I can actually pretend that I too could rock a gown like that. Last night the gowns were conservative and downright plentiful in fabric, for the most part, which gives my wobbly bits such hope for when I walk the red carpet.

2.  Anne Hathaway wearing a metallic-breastplated dress to avoid Nipplegate, Part 2.  Not sure if it was intentional, but I’m going to assume it was her classy raised middle finger to last year’s media frenzy erected by her dress and what it didn’t hide.

3.  Pharrell performing “Happy”.  Children dancing on the stage.  Pharrell gettin’ funky with Lupita, Meryl and Amy.  Pharrell getting everyone up on their feet shakin’ it.  Loved it – best performance of the night.

4.  The number of speeches that thanked MOMS.  Jared Leto AND Matthew McConaughey both did – so nice to see grown men pay such tribute to their mothers.  Also loved the tears that appeared when Matthew spoke of his wife and children – take notes, gentlemen in training!

5.  Bette Midler singing.  Love her or hate her – that woman can sing.  And that she did, superbly well.  I loved that she sang the song I danced to with my dad at BOTH of my weddings!

6.  The speeches were not long, boring, drawn-out, or containing political diatribes.  Yes, a few held political or social commentary, but it was like everyone understood that it wasn’t the time or the place for the soap box, and sometimes, just a mention is all you really need to make people think.

7.  Ellen ordered pizza, had it delivered and passed it out to the celebrity audience.  With celebrities helping serve it up!  Have you ever seen anything that cool, fun or original in recent Oscar shows?  Also, who was the last host to break Twitter by posting a selfie with her and 10 celeb peeps?  Need I say more?

8.  Joseph Gordon Levitt, whom I could love on a standalone basis, but he also reminded me of my boyfriend from senior year in high school – their resemblance is uncanny, to be honest, although I have no idea what the former flame looks like now, so I’ll stick with my memory.  Or JGL.  Refer also to Jonah Hill – that cutie-pie just makes me smile, even when he doesn’t say a word.

9.  I agreed with almost all of the award choices – I might have chosen a different Best Director and different Animated Feature, but everything else I completely agreed with – that NEVER happens!

10.  DIVERSITY.  Black nominees, in more than one category.  Black attendees – more than just a couple token uber-famous black celebrities in the crowd.  A movie about slavery won Best Picture and Best Screenplay.  An intelligent, talented black woman won Best Supporting Actress.  A black man gave the best performance of the show.  Sidney Poitier on stage to remind us all who got the ball rolling for black people in Hollywood.  The Academy is starting to realize that perhaps diversity has been lacking in their club, and it’s nice to see some signs of this changing.  Would I have liked to see more diversity? Of course, but starting somewhere is better than stagnancy.

Keep it up, Hollywood, you did it all right last night.

My creative stepson made this!

My creative stepson made this!

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I thought Black and Gold WERE matching colours?

Oscars are over.   This year, they’ve just left me wondering why every year I get so hyped up about seeing all the movies and watching the show.   If it wasn’t for Twitter this year, I probably would have packed it in early and went to bed without seeing Argo win Best Picture.  In fact, I probably would have gone to bed right around the time that a stuffed teddy bear named Ted came out and presented an award. 

Were there any big shockers?  Not for me.  Well, except for when Jennifer Lawrence fell on the stairs to the stage to accept her award.   Poor kid.   As if winning an Oscar wasn’t enough of a career-killer.

The few high points:  An appearance by Babs, singing  with that VOICE “The Way We Were” in honour of late composer Marvin Hamlisch, awesome (albeit some speculation about some of them being lip-synced) performances by Catherine Zeta-Jones and Jennifer Hudson.  My personal moment of glee was for Ang Lee and his win as Best Director of “Life of Pi”, which many said could not be transformed into a movie, yet he did an almost magical job of doing so and deserved to win.  Daniel Day-Lewis submitted his resume for next year’s hosting duties in his Best Actor speech, which was far more amusing than anything Seth and his writers came up with all night.  

Some of the low points:  Host Seth MacFarlane’s song about boob exposure (not the way I’D have chosen to open the show), an appearance by Ted the “teddy” bear to present an award with Mark Walberg and his jokes about orgies and Jews,  Adele performed “Skyfall” and most of the world was duly impressed, but I felt that her voice was and is capable of a much more powerful performance than the one she gave, depending on your sense of humour, Jennifer Lawrence’s tumble up the stairs to collect her Best Actress award may have been a high or a low point, and then let’s not forget the satellite appearance from the White House of First Lady Michelle Obama to cyber-present the Best Picture award for Argo.    This is problematic on so many levels – do the Obamas REALLY want to be associated with awarding a movie that they’ve already been accused of politically supporting?   My other problem with Mrs. Obama’s appearance is that it seems to me to be a thinly-veiled attempt to “colour up” the Oscars, which normally are a very white-washed production.   Just look at the in-house audience.   Aside from nominees Denzel Washington and Quevenzhane Wallis, there were no other black nominees.   There were a handful of black women in the audience and program – Halle Berry, Octavia Spencer, Queen Latifah, Kerry Washington, Jennifer Hudson – but a severe shortage of talented and successful black men, aside from Denzel and Jamie Foxx (who was also short-changed by his lack of a nomination for his performance in “Django Unchained” while his WHITE co-star Christoph Waltz WON for his performance).   In fact, percentage-wise, the African American community was grossly under-represented last night, in all areas.   So what better way for the Academy to avoid criticism of this fact than to have the wife of the most powerful leader of the free world put in an appearance to confirm that even SHE isn’t troubled by the lack of African Americans in the Academy?   Sorry Academy and producers of the show – that just doesn’t cut it.  

It saddens me that there are not more talented and powerful black members of the Academy.   Why aren’t there?  

Last night wasn’t the WORST Academy Awards show I’ve seen (I can barely stand to recall the travesty of the one co-hosted by Anne Hathaway and James Franco, or the one hosted by David Letterman) but it certainly wasn’t the show it could have been, either. Only 364 days left until the next one…let’s hope some change is gonna come.