Enough Already With #‎OscarsSoWhite
by Douglas J. Gladstone
Jan 27, 2016 | 35517 views | 0 0 comments | 758 758 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Yes, for the second year in a row, no persons of color were nominated for one of the top acting prizes. Civil rights activist Shaun King has the right idea about these omissions.

"I don't think African-Americans should be nominated because they are black," he wrote last week soon after this year's Oscar nominations were announced. "I have zero interest in black folks getting nominations where they aren't deserved, but that's not the argument here. It's just lame and suspicious that black folks were shut out of so many categories."

It is lame. But let's get real, we're talking about the quintessential popularity contest.

Thirty years ago, the Steven Spielberg film The Color Purple, which received 11 Academy Award nominations, was shut out completely at the 1986 Oscars ceremony.

According to the April 14, 1986, issue of Jet Magazine, the Beverly Hills/Hollywood branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Color People (NAACP) filed a protest with the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences after the film did not win a single Oscar.

By the way, you know who didn't get an Oscar nomination for directing the film? Spielberg.

As the film's producer, Quincy Jones noted at the time that two of the film's Oscar-nominated stars, Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey, had never acted in a movie before.

"Someone had to direct them, the movie just didn't direct itself," he was quoted at the time.

So if someone is truly annoyed that African American actors like Will Smith, Michael B. Jordan or Indris Elba didn't get nominated this year, it might just be because there were other performances that were more popular with the people who turn in their Oscar ballots, not necessarily more deserving.

I once represented one of the first two people to get Oscar nominations for Special Achievement in Makeup, which was a category created in 1988.

My client, Bob Laden, did some phenomenal work transforming the late Peter Falk into an old man and his septuagenarian sister in an obscure movie called Happy New Year.

"Bob," I remember telling him at the time, "I'm happy for you, but be prepared to lose." That's because nobody was beating Rick Baker for his work on Harry and the Hendersons that year. Sure enough, Baker, a commercially popular makeup artist, won his first Oscar.

And at last count, I think Mr. Baker has six golden statuettes to his credit.

What do critics of the Oscars want? More nominees on the ballot? That might be a solution. I've always thought capping the list of acting nominees at only five was restrictive, anyway.

But please, let's not get into a scenario that mirrors the Major League Baseball All-Star game, where players from every team in each league are mandated to be on the two rosters.

You know what you'll have then, don't you? Quotas, and quotas are ugly.

This sentiment was famously lampooned on an early episode of the iconic All in the Family, when the African-American Lionel Evans tells Mike Stivic that he agrees with his white father-in-law, Archie Bunker, that quotas and affirmative action are bad ideas.

"He believes that, since 88 percent of people in this country are white, 12 percent of the Harlem Globetrotters ought to be black," he said.

What people who are so outraged about these slights ought to be focusing on is the root of the problem, namely, that big movie studios rarely invest in films starring and made by minorities.

According to a recent article in The Washington Post, Hollywood's establishment has been tortoise-like slow to respond to a demand for movies that reflect cultural and racial shifts.

What's more, citing statistics from the Ralph Bunch Center for African American Studies at UCLA, the Post story pointed out that people of color wrote only 7.6 percent of the 172 movies examined by the center in 2011 (the most recent data available).

So if you want to have a debate over the fairness of Oscar nominations, be my guest. It's just a popularity contest, people. It's like all lists, they're entirely subjective.

But remember, that has nothing to do with the problem of the lack of minority representation in the movies.

Douglas J. Gladstone is a publicist and author. He previously worked as the director of governmental relations for the Queens Chamber of Commerce.
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