Daily Bulletin


Daily Bulletin

The Conversation

  • Written by The Conversation Contributor

This year’s Oscars ceremony has been rightly called the most politically charged of the Awards’ 88 year history. Much of the focus has been on Chris Rock’s powerful opening monologue. Rock met criticism of the Hollywood film industry head on when he said “you’re damn right Hollywood’s racist.

But for all the hard-hitting moments of the monologue, it also defended the ceremony. Rock took several swipes at critics, notably at Jada Pinkett Smith and the #askhermore hashtag, which protests the red carpet focus on what women are wearing.

Another of his statements showed how difficult defending the ceremony without using the rhetorics of racism can be. In the 1950s and 1960s, he said,

black people didn’t protest because we had real things to protest at the time. We were too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematographer. When your grandmother’s swinging from a tree it’s really hard to care about best documentary foreign short.

Embedded in this stark and important indictment of historical reality is what Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, a leading theorist of 21st century racism, terms “minimization“. This happens when the harm of contemporary racism is downplayed because the situation was worse in the past.

In defending the ceremony, Rock’s monologue implies that race-based violence in America is a thing of the past, and that the racism and exclusion embedded in the Hollywood film industry are somehow not quite, as he termed it, “real things to protest”.

Civil rights leader the Reverend Al Sharpton and the crowd of protesters he addressed on Oscars night know that entertainment does matter. Words are connected with acts, sometimes violent ones.

image The Reverend Al Sharpton leads a protest outside the 88th Academy Awards in Hollywood. Reuters

Sharpton said “this will be the last night of an all-white Oscars.” The protesters held signs and chanted slogans of the Black Lives Matter movement, which was first organised in 2012 in response to the killing of Trayvon Martin.

Lack of representation on screens and in the film industry reflects much wider imbalances of power that reach right across culture and society, and not just in America.

Hollywood’s lack of diversity runs much deeper than just its flagship awards ceremony and includes under-representation of all racial minorities, not just African Americans, as well as women, LGBQTI people, and disabled people. As Stacy L. Smith, Director of the Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California told The Washington Post:

The only group thriving in film is white, straight, men.

Given that the Oscars celebrate the American film industry first and foremost, and are clearly tangled in US politics (US Vice President Joe Biden appeared on stage there), one might ask why Australians should care about the question of representations of race in Hollywood. (Indeed when I wrote on this topic in the past, I was asked that very question by people commenting on my article!)

There are multiple reasons for Australians to be interested in what happens in Hollywood. For one thing, we tend to celebrate when Australians win awards. This year’s success, Mad Max, Fury Road, was being trumpeted in the media even before the ceremony was over. Taking on only the good elements of the Oscars is disingenuous.

The Australian film production industry is closely tied to Hollywood, with multiple blockbusters including Thor: Ragnarok and Alien: Covenant (formerly Prometheus 2) set to film here in 2016.

Local film culture and industry are not completely separate to Hollywood. All of the top ten grossing films on Australian screens in 2015 were made by Hollywood studios.

Also, popular culture is an important way that people learn about the world, especially aspects that are outside their own immediate experience. Seeing the same kinds of stories and people over and again limits what we can know and imagine.

This is true for people of colour, for disabled people, for LGBTQI people, and for other minorities whose stories are only infrequently told in any form of mass entertainment. Tanya Denning-Orman has written eloquently in The Guardian about the need for more diversity on our screens. As she says, “black faces seeing black faces across the media is essential”.

Films validate people and their stories; making a movie about someone says that on some level they are important – not just to the individuals who see a movie, but to the culture in which it was made.

When the entertainment industry recognizes that stories matter, first by telling them and then by giving awards for excellence in the telling, the impact is at once much bigger and much more personal than saying “it’s just a movie” suggests.

Rock’s monologue was the most politically engaged and confronting of recent years, and the Oscars have come a long way from Seth McFarlane’s 2013 opening song “We Saw Your Boobs”. But the entertainment industry still needs to acknowledge that what it does is important, and act accordingly. And so do we as its audience.

Authors: The Conversation Contributor

Read more http://theconversation.com/why-australians-should-care-about-hollywood-diversity-55572

Writers Wanted

Angus Taylor's tech roadmap is fundamentally flawed — renewables are doable almost everywhere

arrow_forward

Climate explained: humans have dealt with plenty of climate variability

arrow_forward

Why do bankers behave so badly? They make too much money to ask questions

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Did BLM Really Change the US Police Work?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has proven that the power of the state rests in the hands of the people it governs. Following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in a case of ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Scott Morrison: the right man at the right time

Australia is not at war with another nation or ideology in August 2020 but the nation is in conflict. There are serious threats from China and there are many challenges flowing from the pandemic tha...

Greg Rogers - avatar Greg Rogers

Prime Minister National Cabinet Statement

The National Cabinet met today to discuss Australia’s COVID-19 response, the Victoria outbreak, easing restrictions, helping Australians prepare to go back to work in a COVID-safe environment an...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

Ten tips for landing a freelance transcription job

Transcription jobs are known to be popular in the field of freelancing. They offer fantastic job opportunities to a lot of people, but there are some scammers who wait to cheat the freelancers. ...

News Company - avatar News Company

How To Remove Rubbish More Effectively

It can be a big task to remove household rubbish. The hardest part is finding the best way to get rid of your junk. It can be very overwhelming to know exactly where to start with so many option...

News Company - avatar News Company

4 Tips To Pass Skills Certifications Tests

Developing the right set of skills is valuable not only to your career, but for life in general. You can get certified in these skills through obtaining a license. Without a certified license, y...

News Company - avatar News Company



News Company Media Core

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion