The Oscars So White Controversy and Why the Oscars Aren’t Even Important

I can’t bring myself to feel sorry for Will Smith. He’s a huge star with a huge income, and though I am sure he has felt the sting of racism as most Blacks have, just as I have felt the sting of Anti-Semitism, being a Jew, I am not sure this is a case of that. I don’t get the feeling that Will Smith cares one iota about me or even possibly Anti-Semitism, so we are even there. And it’s not that I don’t care about these societal ills, it is just that the Oscars are a self-congratulatory award show and it has absolutely nothing to do with real injustice in the world.

As a matter of fact, I am not looking forward to watching the Oscars this year. As I elaborated in a past blog, I really feel that the best films and acting don’t always win and so we shouldn’t take much stock in this and other shows. It is basically a popularity contest and maybe Will Smith is just not popular with his peers. Maybe he is a jerk, who knows?

What about the plight of women in the industry, the glass ceiling for most, and the disparities in pay? What about the sexism as most are put out to pasture after they are no longer young and sexy?

It is an industry that makes tons of money and like most other successful industries, not everything is even-Steven.

(I must note that when I watch a performance, I don’t even take note of race.)

By the way, I am sure Lily Tomlin and Bel Powley felt sure they would be nominated this year for their outstanding work and display of talent. Neither got the nod. That’s how it goes. Jennifer Lawrence could be in anything average and will get a nod. Again, Popularity is the name of the game.

But this year, as most other years, the jokes and comments and speeches will be rife with social commentary, political statements and the like. I am not looking forward to that and may have to tape the show and watch it for the usual reasons I do anyway – to see the drama and the fashion.

I have been off-put every single time one of the high and mighties of Hollywood has used the Oscars for a political statement. I am watching to get AWAY from reality, otherwise I would watch the depressing news. Don’t people understand that? I do not want to be jolted out of my salivating over a gorgeous gown with a cause. There is a time and a place for everything, and I don’t think the Oscars is the place to do it.

Going all the way back to Marlon Brando’s using Sasheen Littlefeather, it is just because they know there is a huge audience watching that they use their moments for this purpose. These are not humanitarian awards, people. These are gold statuettes given to actors by actors, given to the behind the scenes people by behind the scenes people. In the speeches, which kind of amuse me, the stars act like they have just won a Nobel prize. (Now those speeches I would like to hear!) The most honest speech ever, besides JK Simmons (who I loved in Juno so much) last year, was Sally Field’s infamous speech where she acknowledged the popularity contest by exclaiming her delight that the glittery crowd really, really likes her. She can’t deny it anymore after her second Oscar. She is really, really popular with them.

When we watch a political program, such as Meet the Press, or a debate, we know we will hear politics and opinions. If I care to tune in, that is what I am expecting.

If I tune into an awards show, for the really admittedly shallow reasons I do, I certainly don’t want to be hit in the face with Michael Moore ranting. My opinion is that his opinion is not any more important of an opinion than a homeless person in the street. I mean, why should I be subjected to his opinion/ranting when I want to hear the best song nominees performed? Why should I feel any of the players in Hollywood have a more intelligent or valid opinion of something? They give themselves far too much credit as it is.

So this year, if Chris Rock doesn’t cave to pressure, he is sure to skewer Hollywood and the Academy for it’s selections. Do I want to laugh at that? Do I want to feel uncomfortable? No! I just want to see the fashions and see who they really, really like this year.

Since I favor smaller, quirkier films or mushy love stories, my favorites rarely get noticed. This year, I should boycott because one of my favorite films of the year, in fact in the past several years, “Me and Earl and a Dying Girl” was completely overlooked. It has a near perfect critical and audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, it won both the main Sundance film festival prize last year AND the audience prize at the same time. It is more common than not, that a great film like this would be completely overlooked in awards shows, and that’s why I don’t take much stock in what really gets picked. I have never felt that the Academy members’ taste or opinion was any more valid than my own so I guess that is where I differ from most people.

Back to my main point: I really don’t believe Will Smith is that worried about REAL racism, and I have not heard or read about him or any activism associated with it. I think, and I could be wrong, that he is an over-indulged, over-privileged person with a huge ego.

UPDATE: Thanks to my astute reader and friend Andrea B, I looked up Will Smith and it seems he is quite philanthropic (on causes he deems important) and perhaps I am wrong about the type of person he is. I salute his generosity. But I still think he has a huge ego, as most do in Hollywood.

And in case anyone accuses me of racism for not being upset at the Oscar choices (again, I rarely agree with Oscar choices anyway in ANY year) let me point out the next two things:

I would have nominated RJ Cyler (a black actor) for best supporting actor as Earl, as he gave one of the most honest, most amusing, and most natural performances I have seen this year. It was a display of many subtle nuances that made his character seem so real for me, and I would have voted for him if I could have. No one is mentioning him, so I have to give him this shout out. (Again from Me and Earl and the Dying Girl)

Also, I was quite a little activist against racism in my youth and it landed me a plum position as a civil rights investigator for my first real job post college. I was passionate about what I did – make sure everyone had equal rights in higher education decisions – and that my friends is FAR more important than who wins a gold statue.

Hollywood’s self-congratulations is just not that important. It really isn’t. Racism is an important issue. Anti-Semitism is an important issue. Who wins an Oscar is not.

In a world of who is famous and popular, when Kardashians are kings of the hill for no apparent reason, I just can’t take the whole thing seriously.

Love your comments though, and go ahead, make my day!


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