Monday, 29 February 2016

The 2016 Oscars or When Chris Rock lost his Integrity

Why do I get the sense that people who ought to be able to stick to their principles, increasingly demonstrate that when the chips are down, they choose awkward acquiescence over confrontation, which while difficult, at least demonstrates that they still possess that rare quality called Integrity. Let me explain..
The Oscars happened last night after a social media campaign that seemed to finally bring home the message about the lack of opportunity and recognition given to actors/directors of colour in Hollywood. 
The #oscarsowhite campaign seemed to finally get the Academy to pay attention.  An announcement reassuring the public that they could and will do better. It was a start and many of us felt that maybe things would change for the better.
And then on the night of the ceremony,  someone in their infinite wisdom thought it would be better to make light of the campaign by reducing it to a series of disrespectful gags. We went from a campaign that included a poignant message to a case of "it's those blacks complaining again". In the words of Chris Rock "not everything is about sexism...not everything is about racism".. as he made a case that the #askhermore campaign was oversensitive because in his opinion, there was nothing sexist about reducing a woman's red carpet interview to an episode of "let's dress Barbie". In Chis Rock's words - the reason why the interviewers don't ask men is because they're all wearing the same thing. I assume that the racism portion of his argument referred to lack of awards not necessarily meaning that the Academy is racist. Perhaps like Charlotte Rampling, Chris Rock thinks it may simply mean - black people were terrible in films this year In other words let's all (women and people of colour)stop being so damn paranoid. 
Then there were the short videos - remakes of the year's nominated films with black Hollywood stars who joked about being the real stars of the films or more deserving than the white actors who starred in them. 
And as if all that wasn't enough for us to get the message from the Academy, there was the "let's end Black History Month on a low note" part. This is the one where Stacey Dash known for her "Stop complaining about slavery and asking for special treatment black people and just work harder" philosophy was brought out to wish us all a Happy Black History month. The same woman who has argued that there is no need for a Black history month. So the message I can only assume was let's ridicule things that matter to you black people. Wow...thanks Academy!!
Oh and did I forget to mention Chris Rock reducing Jada Pinkett-Smith's very valid boycott to a jibe about the insignificance of her opinion because she was not invited anyway. So essentially no one cares what you think because you are not even part of this prestigious club that I've been invited to. It's like the Mexican Trump Campaigner advocating for 'the wall' now that he's on the inside of the good ole US of A.  
Before I forget, there were also the interviews of black cinema-goers all of whom had only watched "Straight outta Compton" and none of whom had heard of or seen any of the nominated films. So in other words - why the hell should you be given awards for serious films when all you ever go and see at the cinema are Madea films? 
As I watched these clips from last night, I couldn't get over the total and utter disrespect shown by the Academy and Chris Rock. On the one hand the Academy  promised to do better while on the other telling Black people to stop their complaining because let's face it, worrying about who won best cinematography meant we weren't being lynched anymore. It's the whole #firstworldissues thing. Such a privilege to be able to sit in the same room as white people watching Brie Larson give an Oscar-worthy performance - why do we continue to bite the hand that feeds us?
The more I think about the Oscars - though I promise not to after finishing this piece - the more infuriated I become. The Academy just gave us a big F you and they got Chris Rock to hold their middle finger up for them. 
I hope upon reflection Chis Rock will see what a disservice he did to his fellow actors - those with genuine and valid concerns who either boycotted or voiced their concerns. By allowing the Academy to reduce their protests to skits and gags that suggest either sour grapes (cos you weren't invited) or petty squabbling (cos look how far you've come), he has undermined valid arguments about deep-seated racism that allow an unapologetic celebration of white privilege and continue to allow those in power to do nothing to create a level playing field for all. 

Sorry Chris but sometimes it IS sexism and sometimes it most definitely IS racism. It's sad that you can't face up to these issues without dismissing those with the courage to do just that!