I Admit it, I LOVE movies.
I love movies so much I can actually appreciate a movie for it’s BADNESS (Raw Deal anyone?) My love of movies is so great, I actually studied film in college and eventually transferreed to NYU to study acting at Tisch School of the Arts.. If you had asked me what i want to do with my whole being at 21, I’d have said acting. My parents were beside themselves. I liked school, but didn’t know whether I cared to get a diploma or not. I actually took TWO YEARS OFF from college (with only six months left to graduate mind you!) because I decided to persue a career in modeling as a potential stepping stone into my TRUE LOVE–ACTING IN FILM
What Happens When You Can’t Find Yourself?
What happened? Reality happened. As a model I started to realize that everything revoled around type. If you didn’t think of yourself as a commodity you were a bad business person. Nobody cared about the real you–they only cared what you could sell. Could I play Juliet? Thelma? (from Thelma and Louise)… ANY lead actress? I quickly realized that every part I had ever been cast in from high school through college was either a “spicy Latina”, or some other version of an ethnic hotty. Their were no roles for women who looked like me other than gang-banger girlfriends or Jason victims (topless maybe, running toward the camers… and certain death!).
Where were the roles for me? They didn’t exist.
It turns out I wasn’t alone… and I’m still not… Justin Simien, screenwriter for Dear White People and winner of the Best First Screenplay, gave a stirring speech at the Sprit Awards stating
“I started writing this movie some 10 years ago as an impulse because I didn’t really see my story out there in the culture,” Simien began. “I didn’t see myself reflected back at me in the films I love or the stories that resonated for me.
“I tried to put myself in the culture. That can be difficult when, along the way, there’s really nothing there to tell you that you belong there,” Simien continued during his speech. “I’m very grateful. If you don’t see yourself in the culture, please put yourself there, because we need you. We need to see the world from your eyes
This is nothing new. In an article titled: Richard Pryor Called the #OscarsSoWhite Before Twitter, Richard Pryor started talking about the lack of representation of black folks in movies in thhe seventies. In 1977, during the opening the 49th Academy Awards he stated “I am here tonight. To explain why black people. Will never be nominated for anything.” He then proceeded to list the number of black acting nominations that year: a grand total of zero.
Even though I lived and breathed acting from the time I was a child, it took years for me to accept it… If I wanted to be anything other than a bitter girl, if I wanted to act, I’d have to write and produce my own films, or do theater. Otherwise, I would have to find another line of work. Eventually, I chose teaching… all things turn out for the best!
Sadly Little Has Changed in Twenty Years…
Even though I SHOULD KNOW BETTER, each year I anticipate the Oscars with a feeling of both joy and dread. I LOVE a good movie.. I love the show, the glamour, the fabulous gowns…
And yet, I have also always hated the pit I feel in my stomach being reminded that people like me… don’t matter. It’s like watching folks have fun at a party you’ll never get invited to.
Check it out! @TruthinReality has a great infographic on this below:
This experience is especially jarring after last year’s epic Oscar wins for Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o and Barkhad Abdi. I don’t know what I was (wishful) thinking… “Yay! Finally some black folks recognized at the Oscars… Look how far we’ve come!” What I didn’t realize is that it was just more of the same. The Academy can only recognize actors if they play slaves, maids, thugs or low-income single moms… And it only does THAT every 10 – 20 years. Last year must have filled it’s quota so we’ll probably have to wait another 5 – 10 years for another nomination. : /
Turns out, I’m not alone in being fed up!
“The Oscars aren’t designed for us.”
In an article titled: How Black Twitter Ignited An Oscar Viewing Boycott, Rebecca Theodore-Vachon discusses how this year, the lack of representation of black, Latino, women… heck anyone who isn’t white, male and heterosexual… is just not visible in film, let alone recognied by the Academy.
Here’s an excerpt from her great piece:
“The Oscars aren’t designed for us.”
Idris Elbaduring a series of Black History month panels and the popular British actor spoke out in response to the lack of Black nominees for that year’s Oscars. Elba’s words ring even truer four years later after the Academy trotted out yet another lily-white list of actors and all male directors. It’s a stark comparison to last year, when “12 Years A Slave” swept the Oscars….
Jones goes further, pointing out the reason the Academy is still grappling with diversity issues is because they haven’t grasped the true definition of the word. “Diversity isn’t about saying ‘See? Here’s this one representative from your group. This means that our institutionalized bigotry problem is solved!’ Real diversity is ensuring that the wealthy white male cisgender non-disabled point of view isn’t dominant and that other points of view are just as readily available, promoted, and accessible.”
Her answer to all this?… Boycot the Oscars. Watch a good film? Read a book? Family game night? I agree
According to the article:
Jamie Broadnax, who runs BlackGirlNerds already has her evening planned. “I’ll be watching The Walking Dead which to be honest, watching rotting corpses attack people in the zombie apocalypse is far more entertaining than the Oscars will ever be.”
What am I Going to Do About All This?
I have never been the type of girls to cry in my beer. I simply can’t let anyone, let alone an old white dude from the Academy, keep me down.
I’m tired of acting like all of this is OK. I’ve got nothing against white dudes (in general), I’m married to one! That said, I’m tired of accepting someone else’s idea that the white male experience is the ONLY experience worth sharing. So, what am I going to do?
Boycott the Oscars!
Do it and make your voice heard of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. Tell the world you are fed up with an all vanilla world. You want cinammon, caramel and dark chocolate heroes!
Use the links provided in this post to reinforce your message! Share personal reasons why you want to see yourself, your children, your friends, co-workers and other world citizens on the silver screen. If you use Twitter use hashtags #OscarsSoWhite and #BoycottOscars to connect with others and amplify your voice
Sign the Petittion
It’s hardly surprising; the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) is infamous for marginalizing Black art, largely because their membership is overwhelmingly white. Over the course of nearly a century’s worth of Hollywood films, 88-99% of all Academy Awards winners have been white.
Support Diverse Media
Who are your favorite actors, filmmakers, and writers of color? Use the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseMedia to share your favorites on Twitter and other social media. Make an effort to go to the movies and help promote great black, Latino and women talent to make sure they get the recognition they deserve. I’ve started my own hashtag #BlackademyAwards, where I’ve awarded Ava Duverney BEST DIRECTOR? What are your favorites? The image from @sonsandbros captured my feelings exactly!
How are you spending this Academy Awards? Will you be watching? Why or why not? What are you doing to support a more diverse media? How are you celebrating great actors, directors, and writers of color?
Related reads: Why Selma is a Must-See Movie
Ali Collins is an educator, community organizer and mom. She lives with her husband and twin girls in San Francisco, CA.
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