Hollywood Has a Race Problem that No One Cares About

by
Jessica Renae Buxbaum
Mo'Nique is blackballed after Oscar win. The Oscars are all white. Hollywood's problem with race continues to escalate.

Oscars

This year’s Oscars are considered the whitest yet (I mean, have you seen the list of nominees?). A strong presence of diversity in Hollywood is undermined even further by the kind of roles people of color do receive: Hispanic women are sexy maids, African-Americans play thugs and Middle Eastern and Asian men are the villains. We continue to see a staggering race problem in the industry yet no progress arises or even an outcry really heard.

This week, actress Mo’Nique claimed that after her Oscar win for her terrifying role in “Precious" she was blackballed by the industry, according to her essay in The Hollywood Reporter. Director Lee Daniels confirmed she did indeed lose roles because she “didn’t play the game.”

And what the game is that? The one where the players may be diverse, but the rules are set by white people.

For the most part, the public and industry alike shrugged off her rejections as the typical response to her “difficult” behavior and bad attitude. What was ignored is the interpretation that Mo’Nique’s understanding of her self-worth was considered "tacky" and difficult.

“I’m just a girl from Baltimore. But being from that place, you learn not to let anybody take advantage of you,” Monique said in her essay.

While white actors can badmouth their films and still get attention from Hollywood, black actors have to follow a certain “campaign” in order to keep the jobs coming.

Hollywood’s white elites continue to dominate the silver screen even when there is ample opportunity for diversity to shine. The 2015 Academy Awards systematically ignored stellar work done by people of color, specifically in not nominating Ava DuVernay for her film "Selma." A series by The Hollywood Reporter shows the clear racism embedded in the Academy.

One anonymous Academy voter said:

“What no one wants to say out loud is that Selma is a well-crafted movie, but there's no art to it. If the movie had been directed by a 60-year-old white male, I don't think that people would have been carrying on about it to the level that they were. And as far as the accusations about the Academy being racist? Yes, most members are white males, but they are not the cast of Deliverance — they had to get into the Academy to begin with, so they're not cretinous, snaggletoothed hillbillies. When a movie about black people is good, members vote for it. But if the movie isn't that good, am I supposed to vote for it just because it has black people in it? I've got to tell you, having the cast show up in T-shirts saying "I can't breathe" [at their New York premiere] — I thought that stuff was offensive. Did they want to be known for making the best movie of the year or for stirring up shit?”

In another pull away from diversity, Scarlett Johansson will play the leading lady, a character who is Japanese, in a live-action (now whitewashed) version of "Ghost in the Shell."

Hollywood has a clear problem with diversity. Awards are not given when they are clearly deserved, roles meant for a certain minority are replaced by white people and actors of color lose out for not complying. And yet everyone just shrugs their shoulders with indifference.

 

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