LOS ANGELES, February 29, 2016 – Serving as host for the 88th Academy Awards Sunday evening, comedian Chris Rock dove right into the #OscarsSoWhite controversy just seconds after the opening film montage. Rock transformed the 2016 edition of this glittering awards show into a 3 ½ hour live performance punctuated by political satire riffing on issues of diversity and inclusion and the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
“Man, I counted at least 15 black people on that montage,” later adding, ”Well, I’m here at the Academy Awards, otherwise known as the White People’s Choice Awards.”
Speculation stirred this past week over how the Oscars telecast would play out after the diversity controversy. Director Spike Lee and and actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith boycotted the event, announcing they would not attend because of the lack of diversity.
Prior to Rock’s opening monologue, the Rev. Al Sharpton led an “Oscars So White” protest near the Dolby Theatre (formerly the Kodak Theatre) where the annual show has been held since 2002. Actors and actresses dodged tough diversity questions as they walked the red carpet.
During the annual “in memoriam” montage tribute to the deceased, Rock claimed it would instead be devoted to “black people who were shot by the cops on their way to the movies.”
Rock’s most jagged comments on the issue summed up the problem, “We want opportunity. We want the black actors to get the same opportunities as white actors. That’s it.”
Rock was not the only one to address the diversity controversy. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu focused on the issue during his acceptance speech for best director award. “What a great opportunity to our generation,” he said, “to make sure for once and forever that the color of the skin becomes as irrelevant as the length of our hair.”
Rock was named host of the Oscars months before the nominees were announced by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He was seen as someone who could calm tensions looming over the awards. In the months before the ceremony, Rock gave numerous hints to the media of his views, so no one should be surprised that the actor and comedian used his time as host to speak on diversity issues plaguing Hollywood.
It has become clear that it will take more than an Oscars opening monologue to change the diversity status quo in Tinseltown, but at least actors and actresses are continuing to fight for change.