by Jaime Davis
The Fixer at Moviejawn
originally published on whatjaimewatched.com
Guys, guys. It’s Oscars time. And Indie Spirits time. This weekend is typically like my second Christmas, my happy happy, my special Jaime Mardi Gras. But this year I’m just not feeling it. It’s not that I don’t like any of the nominees. I do. I like the nominees a lot. But there are a lot of people not nominated who I think should’ve been. Or at the very least, could’ve been. And we’ve all heard the endless #Oscarssowhite talk. We’ve seen the tag, we’ve heard from Will and Jada, Spike and Clooney and Jamie Foxx. Even goddamn Charlotte Rampling had to go off and say something. Something extremely, ridiculously dumb. I’m not going to use this (very small platform) to give my overall opinion on #Oscarssowhite. Because it doesn’t fucking matter. And, more importantly, the Academy Awards are only a small problem at the tail end of a much larger issue.
What I think DOES matter is that studios continually operate in a perpetual fog of whiteness. Up until Bridesmaids, standard exec-thought was that women didn’t go to movies, or have evolved senses of humor, or have interesting stories to share. Those same execs may think producing or acquiring black and brown stories equates to taking a risk, or reaping limited financial reward. They might say it amounts to nothing but counterprogramming. For niche markets. That’s absolute bullshit and we all know it. Look at Creed. Look at Straight Outta Compton. Highly anticipated The Birth of a Nation was bought by Fox for $17.5M at Sundance this year. Those same execs will shuffle their feet, wring their hands, and show you all the numbers for their hulking, white, male-dominated superhero franchises - they might say something like ‘Hey man, China and Korea and South America and the UK, they want that white ish. They gravitate towards it. They pay to see it.” Ok. That’s great. And what I would say to these execs: let’s keep it moving. Let’s make room for everyone. What did they used to say on Wall Street? Oh yeah. DIVERSIFY. Let’s diversify the shit out of Hollywood. Let’s get Ryan Coogler and Ava DuVernay to direct more things. Let’s get Michael B. Jordan and Dev Patel and Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo and Michael Peña and Priyanka Chopra and Anthony Mackie and Constance Wu and other actors of color to star in more things, and not purely as ethnic characters or comic sidekicks. Let’s produce and acquire stuff from all over the world. And let’s source talent from places we’d least expect. Let’s not wait to find it. Let’s go out and get it. BE PROACTIVE, DANGIT.
Let’s also follow April Reign’s suggestion and use the Bechdel Test to create the DuVernay Test. Evaluate films to check if minority characters “have fully realized lives rather than serve as scenery in white stories.” Yes. We need to do this. Guys, please. Let’s really, really do this.
So yes, this is a huge motherfucking problem that the Academy surely can’t solve alone. But they’re not without blame. There’s inherent bias within the industry and voting body. Academy voters skew older, and whiter. On the plus side, things are changing. The Academy chose Chris Rock to host this year. It’s increasing diversity within its board and working to diversify the general voting community. Cool, cool, and cool. But my fear is that as the Academy continues to address these issues, they may unintentionally reward affirmative action-style, which could create backlash. I see minority actors being simultaneously praised and derided for any Oscars achievements. And that’s not right either. (Side note: I’m not making any particular statements about affirmative action, so don’t even go there.)
So, If I Ruled the Oscars what would I do? Hard to say. There’s just SO MUCH. For starters, I would have invited Anohni, nominee for Best Original song, to perform. Why didn’t they? Is it because she’s transgender? Not a household name? WHAT? I’m completely appalled that they’ve got The Weeknd (singing a song from Fifty Shades of Grey, christ), then Lady Gaga (ok, no compaints), and Sam Smith (was he really nominated? For the dumb Spectre song? Really?) but no Anohni or David Lang (whose Simple Song #3 in Youth was also recognized). I’m just so, so, ugh…I can’t even with you right now. YOU EFFING HOLLYWOOD CLOWNS.
Second, I’d pull a Mean Girls and be all “so…why’s everyone stressing over this thing anyway? It’s just plastic. So…share it.”
Yes, I would just get rid of awards this year and throw a big old party and have everyone get dressed up, looking pretty. I’d serve everyone pizza, and not the fancy thin crust kind, the cheapie Little Caesars pizza pizza kind. (You know JLaw’d be into it). I’d show clips of my favorite movie scenes and performances from 2015. I’d make a toast to Tilda Swinton (and then propose marriage, as you do). I’d bring Idris Elba onstage and ask him to audition, right then and there, to be the next James Bond. I’d have Anohni perform every single nominated song from 2015, and then Justin Bieber’s ‘Sorry’ and maayybbeee Bieber’s “What Do You Mean?” because sure, why not. (SURE, WHY NOT?!) And then I’d make Chris Rock come up and recite Cady’s aforementioned speech from Mean Girls, because really. Moving forward, let’s share it.