Last year’s hashtag, #OscarsSoWhite has been brought back and is now trending on Twitter, with users voicing their outrage at the Academy whitewash.
The latest star to add their voice to the call for change is Halle Berry. She remains the first and only woman of color to win the Academy Award for Best Actress. At the 2016 Makers Conference she took the opportunity to express her disappointment that things haven’t changed since her win for Monster’s Ball in 2002.
‘I believed that in that moment, that when I said, “The door tonight has been opened,” I believed that with every bone in my body that this was going to incite change because this door, this barrier, had been broken,’ said Berry. ‘And to sit here almost 15 years later, and knowing that another woman of color has not walked through that door, is heartbreaking. Because I thought that moment was bigger than me. It’s heartbreaking to start to think maybe it wasn’t bigger than me. And I so desperately felt like it was.’
The Avengers and Spotlight Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo has also weighed in on the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, saying that he will be attending the show, but tweeting that ‘I do support the Oscar Ban movement’s position that the nominations do not reflect the diversity of our community.’
Continuing on his Twitter, Mark explained that ‘the Oscar Ban movement reflects a larger discussion about racism in the criminal justice system… And opens the way for my peers to open their hearts to the #BlackLivesMatter movement as well.’
Mark Ruffalo’s statements are just some of the latest in a series of celebrity support for the criticism of this year’s Oscars’ nominations. Actor William H. Macy came forward to address the controversy, saying, ‘My take on this story is that there is no conspiracy, it is the Academy. It is mostly a bunch of white guys. And I am guilty of it too. We gravitate to our own.’
The actor also explained that is is the lack of diversity within the Academy – and the members not watching all the films in contention – that led to all the nominees being white. ‘The only thing that the Academy needs to fix is that a lot of people that vote for it don’t see all of the movies, so you vote for the guy you liked last year… “I didn’t see this film – but I always liked that guy, or I liked that woman!”
Will Smith has confirmed that he will be boycotting the Academy Awards alongside his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. The actor – who had been tipped for an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Dr. Bennet Omalu in the film Concussion – made the announcement on Good Morning America that he would not be attending the awards ceremony, saying: ‘We’re part of this community but at this current time, we’re uncomfortable to stand there and say that this is OK.’
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His wife, Jada announced via a video post on her Facebook page that she wouldn’t be joining in this year’s festivities earlier this week due to the furore surrounding nominations.
In the video posted, she said: ‘Here is what I believe, the Academy has a right to acknowledge whoever they choose and to invite whoever they choose and now I think that it’s our responsibility to make the change.’
She continued: ‘So lets let the Academy do them with all grace and love and let’s do us, differently. I’ve got nothing but love. Hey Chris, I will not be at the Academy awards and I will not be watching, but I can’t think of a better man to do the job at hand this year, than you my friend. Good luck!’
Legendary director Spike Lee who is due to receive an honourary Oscar for his contribution to film at this year’s awards ceremony has also announced that he will be boycotting the event thanks to the derth of black and minority nominees. He made the announcement on his Facebook page with a lengthy post which stated, ‘How Is It Possible For The 2nd Consecutive Year All 20 Contenders Under The Actor Category Are White? And Let’s Not Even Get Into The Other Branches. 40 White Actors In 2 Years And No Flava At All. We Can’t Act?! WTF!!’
Oscar winners George Clooney and Lupita Nyong’o have also joined in on the #OscarsSoWhite debate. Lupita – who won the best supporting actress award for her role in 12 Years A Slave in 2014 – shared an Instagram post where she shared her disappointment at the ‘lack of inclusion’ in this year’s nominations and her belief that ‘unconscious prejudice’ had blighted the awards, before calling for change.
Similarily, double Oscar winner, George Clooney has accused the Academy of moving in the ‘wrong direction’ amid the controversy. Speaking to Variety magazine, Clooney is quoted as saying, ‘I don’t think it’s a problem of who you’re picking as much as it is: How many options are available to minorities in film, particularly in quality films?’ A sentiment which has been echoed through social media and by other industry professionals.
Oscars host Chris Rock has also broken his silence and made a pointed reference to the controversy surrounding the upcoming awards ceremony.
The above tweet, which references the Black Entertainment Television awards has been liked over 4 thousand times and comes after Twitter users (and even 50 cent) have questioned whether the comedian should step down as the host for the awards.
For the second year in a row no actors of colour have been nominated within the Oscars’ four acting categories. This is not the first time the Academy Awards – which were watched by nearly 37million people in the US alone last year – have sparked outrage for the absence of black and minority nominees.
In a year that has seen critically acclaimed films starring black and minority actors, such as Straight Outta Compton and Creed, the Academy has once again come under fire for not recognizing the talents of their stars.
Protestors have pointed in particular to Straight Outta Compton, the N.W.A biographical drama which broke box office records and grossed $200million worldwide. It also saw Jason Mitchell praised for his portrayal of Eazy-E, yet it has been recognized in only one category, the Best Original Screenplay for its team of (all-white) writers.
The president of the Academy, Cheryl Boone Isaacs has spoken about the controversy surrounding the event in a statement, saying: ‘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.’
In response to the suggestion that the problem lies with the Academy’s membership which is overwhelmingly white and male, Cheryl continued: ‘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 recognise 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 it can only be a good thing that the Academy endeavour to diversify it’s membership, critics have also suggested that the repeated Oscars whitewash stems from the lack of diversity in film casting. While the situation appears to have improved of late – as this year’s range of black and minority actors in both lead and supporting roles show – it cannot be denied that they are still not fairly represented in film.