It’s only been a day since the announcement of the 92nd Academy Award nominations, and the takes keep on coming. Kayleigh wrote about the most egregious exclusions yesterday, and we all raged in the comments of the nominations piece about the fact that the utterly hollow Joker led the pack with 11 nominations. And before the announcement, I wrote about all the snubs I was worried about, and lo and behold, they all came to pass except for a Best Picture nod for Ford v. Ferrari! Because silly me, white men keep winning!
Which leads us to Stephen King’s tweet this morning. I don’t think he’ll delete it, because he seems like the kind of dude who sticks to his bad opinions, but I have a screenshot for you below anyway:
Ah, to be a rich white guy. “I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality.” Wow, thanks so much, you performative champion of art. What exhausts me about the smug myopia of King’s comment is the idea that “art” and “diversity” are these diametrically opposed ideas. First of all, what does King even mean by “diversity”? Be specific. He means not a white straight guy, because that’s the status quo in Hollywood, in media, in politics, in everything. And so King’s comment, first and foremost, is coming from the status quo. His suggestion that anyone even daring to express a viewpoint that is not white or male would be ruining art demonstrates his position. King is telling on himself with this statement, essentially letting us know that only movies about straight white men or made by straight white men are objectively “good,” and that to consider any other narratives would be to dampen the quality of this holy and untouchable art. Which is bullshit!
When I interviewed Boots Riley for Sorry to Bother You, he was insistent that everything in our lives are shaped by politics. By what we look like. By where we grew up. By the music we listen to, the movies we watch, the books we read. What we choose to surround ourselves with is all entirely subjective because it was made by people, and all people are subjective. Art is subjective. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is a combination of your influences and your points of view and your fucking agenda. So when a person like King tells you that to consider “diversity” would be to lessen art, what he’s really saying is that he thinks your experience, if it deviates in any way from the white straight male status quo, is too much and too different and not good enough. It’s such a place of privilege, and it’s so pretentious, and it’s exactly what these people tell themselves to keep their power in place and their system running.
Because to them, it’s not that Hustlers so perfectly captured the post-recession rage of the lower classes, of the women of color who are always left behind by the bailouts. It’s a movie about strippers, how vulgar. It’s not that The Last Black Man in San Francisco so astutely depicted the whole-scale gentrification of a city, of how an entire race is being shoved aside. That’s too inflammatory, don’t be so mean to nice white ladies riding the bus. It’s not that Us communicates the experience of two Americas, of a permanent underclass finally breaking bad against the people who have objectified and undermined them for so long. Lupita Nyong’o was in a horror movie, that’s not serious enough, don’t watch it. It’s not that The Farewell, with nuance and subtlety, let us into the intimate life of a family straddling two cultures and two identities. That rapper girl whose name they can’t remember was in that movie? Pass.
All of those easily identifiable situations — struggling for money, struggling for acknowledgment, struggling for a home, struggling for self — are not too diverse. That’s life. But King and his ilk aren’t interested in the lives explored and presented in these films. That’s not the empathy they’re willing to extend — not when it’s to people who don’t look like them. And they’ll keep telling you it’s not art, and that your viewpoint isn’t worthy, and they’ll put the blame on you for wanting more. “It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong,” King has the gall to say of ignoring “diversity,” as if we should all be ashamed for finally wanting to be considered for what we create. We’re not the ones in the wrong here, and the dude who wrote a child gang bang isn’t the one to lecture us.
P.S. Kubrick’s version of The Shining was better.
P.P.S. Watch The Last Black Man in San Francisco, the cast of which is featured in the above image, dammit!
Image sources (in order of posting): Getty Images, Twitter