On Feb. 28 was the much-anticipated 88th Academy Awards ceremony, where A-list celebrities, filthy rich moguls and random seat fillers who were lucky enough to get a ticket joined together at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood to celebrate the many artistic accomplishments by white actors and to forget about all of the world’s problems. Although the Oscars was a momentous event with artists being commemorated for their work, I couldn’t help but be concerned with the blatant lack of diversity in the performing arts.
After another year of having only white actors and actresses as nominees, black celebrities turned to social media to express their disappointment using the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. Many African American stars boycotted the Oscars which really didn’t change anything, and the host, Chris Rock, joked multiple times about how the Oscars was an event dedicated to celebrating the many accomplishments of white people. With the lack of diversity becoming apparent, it is time to seriously discuss how diversity is defined in media and in the arts.
Rock went above and beyond to prove his argument about how black actors and actresses are rarely commemorated. I agree, there are great films with black actors and more often than not many of them aren’t recognized. In addition, the only time they are recognized and awarded are when the movies are about America’s regrettable period of slavery, for example “Selma,” “Lincoln” and “12 Years a Slave.” It’s as if the Academy nominates those films purely because they are afraid of backlash for not acknowledging a movie about slavery.
Diversity is an extremely broad topic and the lack of it in this year’s Oscar nominations is only the tip of the iceberg. Hollywood is racist and it’s laughable how they try to conceal it. First, let’s discuss the #OscarsSoWhite movement that challenges Hollywood’s lack of diversity, which initially seems like a cause that speaks for all people of color, but looking at celebrity tweets and articles, that hashtag seems exclusive to only the black actors and actresses. Who is advocating for the Asians or the Pacific Islanders or everyone else that is not white or black?
After watching a few clips of the Oscars, clearly no one in the audience truly cares for how Asian Americans are treated in the film industry. Rock tastelessly made stereotypical jokes about Asian Americans, describing them as “dedicated accountants.” The joke was terrible, but when the audience actually laughed at it, I was truly disgusted with how hypocritical many of those celebrities who advocated diversity were. On the other hand, when Stacey Dash, an advocate of removing Black History Month, joked about her potential candidacy for the Director of Minority Outreach, not a single audience member was amused.
The Asian joke was unacceptable, but its reception proves how insincere the topic of diversity is in Hollywood. In fact, not many Asian Americans are rightfully represented in media. There are legends such as Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee and others who are mostly cast in martial arts movies, but we are more than kung fu and math.
There are more than a handful of movies about slavery, but I can’t even think of three movies about Japanese American intermittent camps or the tragic stories of Chinese Americans building the transcontinental railroads without Googling it. Even if there were a few films, I doubt any of them were awarded for their cinematography or acting, proving how Hollywood has not evolved to create more Asian American roles or even cast an Asian American as the star of a movie.
#OscarsSoWhite is a great start to a larger discussion, but it needs to involve every single ethnicity that is not represented in film. Every ethnic community must unite to change the idea of diversity in this nation. Until Hollywood creates films with more than just white or black characters, this conversation about diversity will go nowhere.