Yesterday as the country celebrated Martin Luther King Jr, we were reminded that while the country has come a long way on race relations, we’ve still got a long way to go. Twitter showed us some of the ways we’ve gotten better, the ways we haven’t and Zac Efron. Jesus, Zac Efron.
Best - Cheryl Boone Isaacs
You know how pissed you are about the second annual all white Oscars? So is Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs. Luckily for us, she’s decided to do something about it. Starting with an open letter from the Academy posted to their Twitter account yesterday.
A statement from Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs pic.twitter.com/Nqhgc7sbqG— The Academy (@TheAcademy) January 19, 2016
I’d like to acknowledge the wonderful work of this year’s nominees. While we celebrate their extraordinary achievements, I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion. This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes. The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership. In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond.
As many of you know, we have implemented changes to diversify our membership in the last four years. But the change is not coming as fast as we would like. We need to do more, and better and more quickly.
This isn’t unprecedented for the Academy. In the ’60s and ’70s it was about recruiting younger members to stay vital and relevant. In 2016, the mandate is inclusion in all of its facets: gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. We recognize the very real concerns of our community, and I so appreciate all of you who have reached out to me in our effort to move forward together.
While the whole letter is an exercise in badass PRing, my favorite part is the unstated implication in the last paragraph. “In the ’60s and ’70s it was about recruiting younger members to stay vital and relevant … so please hold all of your complaints about the PC police and how I’m destroying America.” Well played.
Most Cringe Worthy - Janet Hubert aka the Original Aunt Viv
Oh no, this one I don’t feel good about at all. In the wake of the Oscar announcement and ensuing discussion of racism in Hollywood Janet Hubert, the actress who originally played Aunt Viv on The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, called out Will and Jada Pinkett Smith over Jada’s proposed boycott of the Oscars. Now there’s a lot to debate here: the role that established actors of color should play in increasing diversity in Hollywood, a realistic acknowledgment that unestablished actors of color often don’t have the stability required to boycott something like the Oscars, further acknowledgement that any unestablished actor might not want to boycott the Oscars because it’s the fucking Oscars and that’s exciting. A discussion of the costs and benefits of such a boycott would be welcome. But this now deleted tweet from Hubert doesn’t address any of those things.
And neither does the accompanying video.
Now ordinarily when someone makes an uncomfortable tweet or video, I’d be happy to ignore it. Hubert makes a lot of unsubstantiated claims in both posts (Jada won’t let Will speak for himself, the Smith’s production company only produces movies for their family, that a boycott of the Oscars will necessarily lead to being blacklisted) that unfortunately lessen the validity of her other arguments. But mixed in those arguments about the supposed unimportant of the Oscars.
There’s a lot of shit going on in the world that you all don’t seem to recognize. People are dying, our boys are being shot left and right, people are hungry, people are starving, people are trying to pay bills. And you’re talking about some motherfucking actors and Oscars. And it just ain’t that deep.
1.) As always, people can tackle problems on two fronts. Making statements against the lack of diversity in Hollywood doesn’t prohibit people from also tackling racism in other areas.
2.) The lack of diversity of people of color in TV and films actually does in ways contribute to the other forms of racism that Hubert mentioned. If black actors and actresses are portrayed only as criminals, crime victims or slaves (yeah, the Academy loves giving out trophies for slave/ servant roles), it’s easier for people to view actual black men and women as dangerous. Which has some pretty terrifying consequences.
3.) The Oscars do matter very much within Hollywood. We can dismiss them as millionaires congratulating other millionaires, but for a lot of actors and actresses these are their performance reviews and the way they work their way up through “the company.” My friend and colleague Brian Byrd said it best after last year’s whitewashed Oscars:
Selma director Ava DuVernay isn’t a lesser auteur because a predominately white Academy that frequently botches nominations overlooked her accomplishments. Her absence does matter, though, because it denies DuVernay deserved recognition, which reduces her overall popularity and visibility, which is the only currency that really matters in Hollywood anymore.
The Worst - Zac Effron
Yep, Zefron. That’s how we all feel.