Urban Reacts to #OscarsSoWhite

August Ackley, Staff Writer

The 88th Ceremony of the Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, was watched by 34.4 million people on February 28. The ceremony has existed for years now, and has been known to honor the  best actors, actresses, filmmakers and other positions within the film industry.

This past month, the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag trended on Twitter in speculation of the news that all 20 nominees this year are white. However, this phenomenon is nothing new. Since the ceremony began in 1929, only one black actress and four black actors in a leading role have won. Only two Asian men have won best actor, while no Asian women have ever. On top of this, only three black directors have been nominated, none of whom have won.

There has been additional speculation on whether or not this issue is further rooted in the academy’s prejudice or in the lack of people of color leading mainstream films. “Look at all of these beautiful shades of people in the audience … Hollywood needs to know that this is what diversity is supposed to look like,” said actor Anthony Anderson, as he hosted the NAACP Image Awards this year.

A student at the Urban School, Sophia Vahanvaty (‘19), said “I do think that the Academy play a role … it’s kind of a self perpetuating cycle, if directors are seeing that these specific white-oriented films are getting nominated, then they may be motivated to continue that cycle if they are trying to get an Oscar”.

Other celebrities and have commented on the situation as well. Actress Jada Pinkett Smith said on Facebook; “The Academy has the right to acknowledge whomever they chose and invite whomever they choose, and now I think that it’s our responsibility now to make the change… Begging for acknowledgment or even asking [for it] diminishes dignity and diminishes power.” However, her and her husband, Will Smith, boycotted the ceremony by not attending this year.

Ryan Barnett, a freshman at the Urban School added his voice to the discussion. “I think that if somebody doesn’t agree with the fundamentals of how an awards ceremony is run, they without a doubt, have the right to not watch or attend the ceremony. It’s even better if as many people are aware as possible, which is starting to happen with directors like Spike Lee raising awareness with the lack of diversity,” said Barnett ‘19, referencing director Spike Lee.

Lee wrote on Instagram, “My Wife, Mrs. Tonya Lewis Lee And I Will Not Be Attending The Oscar Ceremony This Coming February. We Cannot Support It.”

The ceremony this year was hosted by the black comedian Chris Rock, who promised to address the hashtag in his opening monologue. “[The Academy] is excited about [Chris Rock] doing that. They know that’s what we need. They know that’s what the public wants, and we deliver what the people want,” said Reginald Hudlin, a producer of the Oscar’s.

Whether or not this phenomenon has influenced the ceremony’s viewers to refrain from watching, it is important to keep in mind all of the different movies that have been released this year, and why certain ones may not be celebrated like other ones.