A recent study confirmed that the exclusion stigma surrounding the Oscars extends far beyond an awards show. For the second straight year, African-American actors have been snubbed by voters for the Academy. As a result, several actors within Black Hollywood have decided to boycott the show and many would-be viewers have joined them. As the Academy wrestles with problems of diversity and exclusion in the upcoming ceremony, Chris Rock is the Oscars last black hope.
Anger and frustration over the lack of minority nominees in the 2016 acting category prompted actress Jada Pinkett-Smith and director Spike Lee to speak out against the Academy and ask others to join in a massive boycott. Smith’s video request went viral as did the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the Academy’s president, has since vowed to bring change to the organization that has been predominantly white way too long.
The recent study, which was conducted by the Media, Diversity, and Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, confirmed that minorities in other areas had also long been underrepresented in acting roles. Not only blacks have been snubbed, but gay, lesbian, and transgender roles are nearly nonexistent and men far outnumber women in the industry. The study said:
The film industry still functions as a straight, white, boy’s club.
Although Black Hollywood will not be up for any nominations, there is, at least, a dozen slated to present awards to winners. The president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, Earl Ofari Hutchinson, expects a huge backing of what they call the “White Oscars Tune-Out.” In addition to viewing avoidance, there are plans for Oscar day protests in major cities across the country at ABC stations and in Hollywood. With so much controversy surrounding Oscar Sunday, the Academy is bracing for one of its lowest ratings. Hutchinson said:
We fully expect the rating numbers to be down, and much of that will be due to the pressure.
The Oscar’s last black hope for African-American viewership is Rock. This is of grave concern to the Academy because the largest part of its income stems from the actual ceremony. Kantar Media released a report which stated ABC took in about $110 million from last year’s broadcast. Assuring financial stability for the awards has become more critical for the academy. Last year, viewership fell about 15 percent causing ABC to raise prices for ads.
The network, under a long-term contract, has agreed to air the Oscars through 2020. But a rating collapse could squeeze the network by reducing future advertising rates, and an Oscar-day boycott that is sure to reduce viewership could hurt ABC’s brand. It has been 11 years since Rock hosted the Academy Awards where his aggressive comedic style was less than celebrated by the overwhelmingly Caucasian audience. Returning as the master of ceremonies for the celebrated event, Rock has inherited a ceremony in crisis.
The comedian is under serious pressure as many wait to see what he will do to shake up the Oscars. After its second consecutive year of “black” avoidance, several high-profile African-American entertainers have called for a massive boycott of the Academy Awards. While many have agreed to join in solidarity others have been conflicted because they want to support Rock in his efforts. However the Hollywood spins it, the Oscars last black hope is Christopher Julius Rock III.
Opinion by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
New York Times: Hollywood’s Inclusion Problem Extends Beyond the Oscars, Study Says
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