Hollywood debates itself over its ‘all-too-white’ Oscars

In the wide, eclectic ocean of liberalism that is Hollywood, that little golden statue named “Oscar” is often the center of controversy.

Neil Patrick Harris emcees the 2015 Oscars.
Neil Patrick Harris emceed the 2015 Academy Awards telecast. (Image credit: ABC, Sunday's Academy Award network host)

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina, January 31, 2016 — In the wide, eclectic ocean of liberalism that is Hollywood, that little golden statue named “Oscar” is often the center of controversy.

In 2016, the topic of the year is “race” once again. The debate has been renewed about whether the Academy Awards ceremonies are too “white.” Producer, director and actor Spike Lee stirred the latest controversy after this year’s nominees were announced, saying he would boycott the event because the Academy had failed in its duties due to a lack of diversity among the top nominations.

Numerous celebrities have since weighed in on the subject. Some have already suffered severe backlash for their opinions. Chris Rock, the outspoken and often controversial black comedian, is scheduled to host the 2016 show. Given Lee’s position, however, that still could change before the curtain rises on the Academy Awards broadcast.

No business anywhere creates more desperate striving for adulation than the world of entertainment. Indeed, when it comes to mass love and adoration, few people are more needy than entertainers. The Academy Awards may be the Super Bowl of awards ceremonies. But those wealthy, stressed children of the red carpet are constantly in search of recognition. Remember when a teary-eyed Sally Fields cried in apparent disbelief, “You really do love me!” to her peers?

No other awards receive more national and international attention than the Oscars. The Emmys have far too many categories to sustain public interest, while the Tonys have far too few. The number of theater goers is far smaller than the legions who pack movie houses each week to watch the latest films. On the other hand, unless you live in New York or visit the Big Apple during theater awards season, you probably don’t have any idea who won the latest Tonys.

Then we also have those apparently weekly music awards shows including the Country Music Awards, the Bluegrass Country Music Awards, the Crossover Country/R&B Awards, the Grand Ole Opry Country Awards, the Taylor Swift Country Awards, the Grammys, the Grampys, the Aunties, the Uncles, the Country Grammys and so on, ad infinitum. When it comes to awards ceremonies, the music industry is the ultimate reality show.

So enamored are we of multimillionaire, no-talent celebrities like the Kardashians and Paris Hilton—whose own reality shows have demonstrated that Americans have lost all sense of “reality”—it is ultimately difficult for the average person to relate to Spike Lee’s anger.

If there are significant films and performances by minority actors and directors, then Lee has a point. If, on the other hand, Spike wants minorities to be included simply because they are minorities, then his argument has no validity.

The current Academy Awards controversy creates a conundrum for the liberal elites of Hollywood. On the one hand, there is the keen competition for the honor of being able to make an impassioned speech to millions of people, thanking a laundry list of unknown, behind-the-scenes personnel for making you the most wonderful performer in any given year.

The opposite factor is that not recognizing a person of color, or someone of a different sexual persuasion, or someone who has overcome a major physical handicap, or someone who has interviewed El Chapo or any number of other individuals passionately enmeshed in fashionably “compassionate” causes is the kind of shocking oversight that simply should not happen in Liberal-land.

The fact is that Hattie McDaniel, Sidney Poitier, Sacheen Littlefeather, Louis Gossett, Jr., Whoopi Goldberg, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Halle Berry, Denzel Washington, Jamie Foxx, Morgan Freeman, Forest Whitaker and Jennifer Hudson, to name a few, all have a trophy case with at least one gold Oscar statuette residing therein. So where is it written that we must perpetually have quotas for inclusion of all minorities, cultures and special interests?

George Clooney has stated the Oscars are moving in the wrong direction. Perhaps so. David Oyelowa, who gave an outstanding performance as Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma last year, said “for 20 opportunities to celebrate actors of color, actresses of color, to be missed last year is one thing; for it to happen again this year is unforgivable.”

Overlooking any outstanding creative performance, regardless of category, is problematic. That said, whenever the Major League Baseball All-Star teams are announced every summer, there are always bubble players who are not selected.

The same is true of the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament. In fact, the Final Four eventually expanded from 32 teams to 64 to solve that situation. Guess what? Now there are 68 teams because doubling the number of invitations did not eliminate the teams that were on the cusp.

Perhaps Hollywood could expand the number of nominees in specific categories. They have already added more choices for Best Picture an increase from the traditional group of five. Could they not add more nominations for Best Performance by an Actor or an Actress etc.?

The good news is that Spike Lee has brought a weakness in the Academy Award nominating system to the forefront.

The bad news is that instead of hearing acceptance speeches about the credits from every major film, we will now be treated to endless political commentaries from movie stars who go to bed at night with mirrors on their ceilings, the better to watch themselves drift off to a righteous sleep.


Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.

Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)

Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News

Follow Bob on Twitter @MrPeabod

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