There has been a lot of talk about why the Oscars are so white. #OscarsSoWhite So Let's break it down. Though the Academy just set new guidelines to promote diversity.
The 17 branches make up the Academy:
Makeup Artists and Hairstylists
Short Films and Feature Animation
Each branch votes within their prospective field. Actors vote for actors, directors vote for directors, and so on. Eligible voters in the Academy are 94 percent White and 77 percent Male. Their average age is 63 (based on 2012 LA Times Survey).
Every minority who has ever won an Academy Award, has won for a role acting out a stereotype or a submissive role. Award winner Hattie McDaniel plays a servant in Gone with the Wind. Denzel Washington plays a crooked cop in Training Day. Miyoshi Umeki in Sayonara plays a submissive woman. Lupita Nyong'o plays a slave in 12 Years a Slave. How minorities are depicted in movies, television, and social media largely reflects how the rest of the United States views minorities in real life. Minorities usually play the drug dealer, the accountant, the housekeeper, the martial artist, the convict, etc. You rarely see minorities in a major blockbuster film as the lead love interest or hero. If minorities are in a blockbuster film they are usually the side character. They are typically one-dimensional and don’t have any real backstories that would make the audience connect with them or empathize with their character. Even the occasional three-dimensional character played by a minority still stay within the constructs of a given stereotype, Denzel Washington playing a dirty cop in Training Day. Here are even instances where minorities are played by Whites, Mickey Rooney's performance of I.Y. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany's. A very racist caricature of an Asian.
Movies like Dumb and Dumber To reinforce negative and lazy stereotypes of Asians. Harry is White and his parents are Asian. His parents have broken English accents. Lloyd asks Harry’s parents by saying “so anyway, which one of you two is going to cough up a kidney?” Harry’s parents start to speak in Chinese, Lloyd says “what! what was that?” as he laughs and points at them. Then says “wait, wait, wait, I know! You’re the gopher from Caddyshack!” He compares people to an animal. I’ll just leave it at that.
"Whitewashing" continues to happen in movies as well. Exodus: Gods And Kings and Gods Of Egypt is a prime example. Though the studios and directors apologize when protests are made about White actors playing historical Middle Eastern characters, no casting change occurred. Their apologies are just empty words. Girls, on HBO, takes place in New York City. This is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world, yet the entire first season was filled by White actors. Even the background characters were White.
During the 1990s, Jackie Chan and Jet Li tried to break into Hollywood, only to discover that they could not break out of the “Kung Fu” stereotype. Both Chan and Li went back to their respective countries to make movies that they wanted to make. Bruce Lee once mentioned in an interview about the lack of leading roles Asian men. His mission to break the status quo was sadly halted by his unexpected death. Today, there are still no recognizable Asian actors in any leading roles in Hollywood, much less a big budget blockbuster film. Mike Nichols took a chance on Whoopi Goldberg. Producer Walter Mirisch and directors like Joseph Mankiewicz and Richard Brooks took a chance on a Sidney Poitier. Where are these people today?
The unexpected popularity of Aziz Ansari's Master of None finally showed the world a slice of life as a minority (and a child of immigrants) in the United States. After winning Best Comedy Series at the Critics' Choice Awards, creator Alan Yang said “Thank you to all the straight white guys who dominated movies and TV so hard, and for so long, that stories about anyone else seem kind of fresh and original, because you guys crushed it for so long, anything else seems kind of different.”
I was once asked to be part of a stage reading, and declined because the script was racist toward Asians. I expressed my misgivings to the director and writer, who dismissed my concerns out of hand. They didn't think it was racist at all, but rather captured a comedic moment in the play. Sometimes it’s hard to see that racism if you were never taught it or about diversity. I was once on set shooting a project and my scene partner said wouldn’t it be funny if I acted like you didn’t understand English and I screamed at you saying “Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth!”. After we shot the scene I told him that what he said was racist. He apologized and said he meant it as a joke. But even that joke was rooted in racism.
Why should you care about diversity? It’s more than just a passing fad or something to pay lip service to. Diversity is important because you get to see different perspectives on life, and a different point of view that you wouldn’t be able to find within yourself. You may occasionally glimpse a deeper aspect of the human condition. Diversity reflects the world we live in. You are limited, distorted, narrow-minded, truncated, and incomplete without diversity.
*Source: Huffington Post
Photo from Indiewire.com
Here is another article about the representation of actors by the Economist entitled "How racially skewed are the Oscars?"
Here is a video by John Oliver from Last Week Tonight about Whitewashing.