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Washed Out

In 1988, during the 60th Annual Academy Awards, Eddie Murphy gave a speech before announcing the nominees for best picture. He opened his speech with, “When they came to me and said they wanted me to present the award for best picture, my first reaction was to say no, I ain’t going. My manager came to me and said, ‘why?’” Murphy explained that it was because the Academy had persistently failed to recognize black actors. Of course, some black actors had been awarded at that point, but it wasn’t anywhere near enough. At the end of his speech, he predicted that he probably would never win an Oscar for stating how he felt about the situation.

28 years later, Eddie Murphy still has yet to win an Oscar. Since his speech, Denzel Washington, Jamie Foxx, Halle Berry, Whoopi Goldberg, and several other black actors have all won Oscars, but some still don’t believe there’s enough diversity in award-winners. At the 2016 Oscar Award Ceremony, the host, Chris Rock, made this controversial issue well-known to the audience and viewers. In Rock’s opening monologue, he stated, “Hey, if you want black nominees every year, you need to just have black categories. That’s what you need. You need to have black categories. You already do it with men and women. Think about it: There’s no real reason for there to be a man and a woman category in acting.”

Even though the 2016 Oscars was all about diversity, both in race and gender, there were no black nominees for any of the categories, but this was not a factor of racism. Out of the Oscar movie nominees, none of the roles that were played by black actors were categories, therefore giving the academy no chance to vote for a black actor. This year’s award show was more-so about societal issues, rather than focusing on the movies, actors, and everything inbetween.

Many people, both the viewers, and celebrities think the academy is racist. I, on the other hand, believe this to be false. I believe there are too many factors to have a definite answer. Just to name a few, maybe the screenwriter has a certain vision for what they want their characters to look like and that doesn’t involve a black person. A black actor could also read the script for an upcoming film and think, “I shouldn’t audition because I’m black.” The casting director also might not take race into consideration when casting the parts, and chose the white actor because they played the part better than the black actor.

This diversity issue goes far beyond the Academy. There are too many factors that play into this issue to have one, precise answer. The Academy was, however, one of the first huge events to bring up this issue of what’s going on in Hollywood. The 2016 Academy Award show was more-so about raising awareness on these issues than celebrating the nominated films. With this, millions of people have reacted to this, ready to take a step forward in the right direction of change.


Holly Myers

April, 2016