On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, two of Hollywood’s most elite members vocalized their intentions to boycott this year’s Oscars due to lack of diversity amongst nominees. The list of candidates was released last Thursday and for the second year in a row, there is a noticeable lack of color.
Critically acclaimed actress Jada Pinkett Smith and award-winning director Spike Lee publicly stated that they will not be attending the award ceremony on Feb. 28.
The trending hashtag #OscarsSoWhite has captured the frustration and confusion among film-lovers across the country.
President of the Academy and woman of color Cheryl Boone Isaacs diplomatically stated, “Of course I’m disappointed, but this is not to take away from the other films nominated.”
It’s a little difficult to overlook the lack of diversity among this year’s candidates when thinking about some of the most talked about films of the past year. Creed, Beasts of No Nation, Straight Outta Compton and Concussion won no acknowledgement from the board at the Academy. It is especially disturbing to viewers across the country since it is the second year in a row that talent of color has been completely overlooked.
Pinkett-Smith publicized her stance in a Facebook video that has garnered 10 million views since Monday. In the video, she states, “Today is Martin Luther King’s birthday and I can’t help but ask the question: Is it time that people of color recognize how much power and influence that we have amassed, that we no longer need to ask to be invited anywhere?”
Her husband, Will Smith, was considered a strong Oscar contender for his role in Concussion. However, Smith did not receive a nomination.
“Begging for acknowledgement, or even asking, diminishes dignity and diminishes power. And we are a dignified people and we are powerful,” said Pinkett-Smith. “So let’s let the Academy do them, with all grace and love. And let’s do us, differently.”
Lee, director of classic films like Do the Right Thing, also commented on the darker truths of the private film industry on his Instagram. “We cannot support it and [I] mean no disrespect … But, how is it possible, for the second consecutive year, all 20 contenders under the acting category are white? And let’s not even get into the other branches.”
Last November, Lee received an honorary Oscar at a Hollywood banquet where he stated, “This industry is so far behind sports, it’s ridiculous. It’s easier to be president of the United States as a black person than be head of a [movie] studio. Honest.” The director was invited as a guest on Good Morning America on Tuesday when he said that, on the date of the ceremony, he would be with his wife at the Knicks-Heat game at Madison Square Garden.
What makes this awards season more interesting is that, although there are no nominees of color, the host of the 2016 Oscars is Chris Rock. Although he has not responded to Pinkett-Smith or Lee directly, Rock referred to the event on Twitter as “The White BET Awards.” Needless to say, those who do choose to tune in to the Oscars at the end of February may be in for a treat, as it will be interesting to see how Rock interprets his role as host.