In this week’s installment of #WhoBrokeTheInternet, the Oscars undeniably take the cake. From Graham Moore’s inspiring acceptance speech to the #AskHerMore campaign encouraging reporters to ask actresses questions beyond fashion , the 2015 Oscars was the most anticipated event of Sunday night.
The Oscars have been all the buzz since the beginning of the year, primarily due to the Oscars snub of Selma, and the fact that this is the whitest Oscars in years. Oscars host Neil Patrick Harris humorously brought the issue up with his opening number:
“Tonight we honor the best and whitest … I mean brightest.”
I didn’t watch this year’s awards show. It’s hard to find entertainment in media that overlooks people that look like me. Sure, I’ve sat through an entire episode of Friends, and yes, I’ve seen every episode of all 9 seasons of Seinfeld (twice even!), but when I was done with Friends, I watched Living Single, or A Different World. I’d tune into the Fresh Prince so I could mimic Carlton’s dance to entertain my friends during recess. There was Martin, Girlfriends, Moesha, and the list goes on. Back then, I had options. Today I find myself asking “what happened to the golden era of Black media?”
“But wait, Monica,” you say, “–there’s Olivia Pope!” While Kerry Washington deserves the accolades she receives for her work as an actress (girl’s got skills), I could never get into the Scandal series. Honestly, I’ve never allowed myself the opportunity to even watch 5 minutes of a single episode. I’m not a huge T.V fanatic to begin with (I haven’t owned a television in years,) but I could never get down with the plotline. A major role for a Black actress who has a position of power, reduced down to her sexual exploits? I’m good, Shonda.
While there has been an emergence of diversity in television, I’m weary how much is actually reflective of the audiences they tend to attract. On the height of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, shows like Scandal, Empire, and Real Housewives of Atlanta (a behemoth of a joke) are in parallel worlds with the reality of what Black America experiences. I understand that media is a work of fiction–which begs the age old question “does art imitate reality” and vice versa–but we’re not unicorns, Hollywood. Black people endure some real ass shit. With powerful Black influencers in the media like Scandal producer Shonda Rimes, why is no one talking about these issues?
Are Black entertainers so removed from the struggles the majority of Black America face that they fail to recognize their status as an opportunity of empowerment? Or, are their hands tied behind their back by corporate sponsors who’d rather not muddle in race politics, because it’s all about chasin’ that paper?
Remember that episode of Family Matters where Eddie was pulled over and frisked because he was driving in the wrong neighborhood? Or when Will and Carlton were held at gunpoint by a robber, who ends up shooting Will in season 5 of the the Fresh Prince? That was real shit. That was relateable. And if I recall correctly, those were some of the top ranked shows during their syndicated run. So what’s the excuse? Why are shows like Law and Order SVU highlighting the issues of Black America, while Black media, for the most part, remain silent?
Black media, I can’t even support you when I want to-you won’t allow me to. How many more Tyler Perry or Universal films will I have to boycott till y’all get the memo that we too, like the actresses on the red carpet, want more?
When actress, singer and violinist in Hollywood, Shaunay Cotton applied to Universal Studio’s casting call for the upcoming biopic Straight Outta Compton which tells the story of N.W.A rap group, Cotton was cast as a “B” girl.
“B GIRLS: These are fine girls, long natural hair, really nice bodies. Small waists, nice hips. You should be light-skinned. Beyonce is a prototype here. Age 18-30.”
“With money on the line, they’re looking for exactly what they’re looking for and not afraid to be direct,” says Cotton. ” It’s unfortunate and kinda sad, but we’re [Black actors] used to things like that. This is normal.
Blacks in Hollywood are seen as a commodity nowadays, and until folks stop painting a limited narrative of Blacks, whether it’s our hair (thanks, Giuliana Rancic,) emotional level or other outdated stereotypes that should have died long ago, I’ll continually have to choose between supporting my favorite Black actors and my moral and political beliefs.
Luckily, with the emergence of alternative media (ahem, like Wear Your Voice), Black Hollywood is saying ‘fuck it,’ and creating their own shit. What this message sends to Hollywood is “we’re not going to wait around for you to get some sense, we’re running things our way.” With HBO in the works with Youtube sensation Issa Rae of Awkward Black Girl to develop a comedy series, one can only hope that Hollywood continues to listen and change the way Black artists are portrayed on the big screen.
While doing research (aka procrastinating), I came across this amazing webseries, Black Actress, written by and starring Andrea Lewis, and produced by Tatyana Ali, Brian Walker and Issa Rae. It details the struggles of a Black actress living in New York navigating the acting world while trying to land her big break. Each episode begins and ends with an actual Black actress who details their own experience in Hollywood. This episode deals with the beauty demands placed on Black actresses. Check it out–and also help them continue the series by donating to their Kickstarter Campaign!