Monday, January 19, 2015

Oscar Hype and Protest

There is another controversy in Hollywood!  The celebrity news from CBS reveals:  “Not a single person of color was nominated for an acting Oscar…the first time that's happened since 1998.”  Yahoo financial news tells us that as a result of this lack of appreciation, the Reverend Al Sharpton has announced that he is calling an "emergency meeting" next week to address the issue.

Looking at this from the aspect of the key dimensions, many questions come to mind.

From a perspective point of view, it reflects on the importance we place on the entertainment industry.  With recent terrorist activity in Paris and Belgium in the past few days and other real international and domestic problems, is this what CBS considers more real news?  If that is the case, they must assume that the readers and viewers of CBS are well out of touch with reality to move this Oscar hype to the top of their priority list.

From a responsibility point of view, here comes the Reverend Sharpton swooping in to create another set of victims that he can save by holding an emergency meeting.  It seems like he can’t concentrate on one problem long enough to see it through, jumping from one crisis or public slight to the next.  In the future will Black actors wonder when they become nominees or winners, was I really that good, or was I nominated just to keep the protests down and portray Hollywood as fair, open-minded and inclusive?

Critical thinking elicits a slew of questions.  If they consider 10 different movies for either Best Picture or Best Lead/Supporting Actor Male/Female and if only one stars primarily African-American actors, what is the probability that no nominations will be of African-Americans?  (That one I can answer: about 19% or roughly 1 in 5.)  In light of that answer isn’t it more unusual that this is the first time since 1998 – 16 years in a row – that it has happened?  By pure chance it would have happened less often.

More questions involve the implied racism of the people who run Hollywood and who nominate and vote on actors for the awards.  Are they really racist or are they in the business of giving us, the viewing public, the kinds of shows and stars that we are willing to pay to see?  They should be getting more desperate and calculating to do this since “2014 was the worst year for movie attendance since 1995.”  If they saw a chance to make more money and increase attendance and did something else due to their prejudices, wouldn’t it be like a Black quarterback refusing to throw to a White receiver who was wide open in the end zone?

Does even the implication that the Oscars could be driven by a prejudice among the voters strongly imply that the whole thing is pretty subjective – that it’s a matter of taste?  Are the real racists the ones who look at the color of the nominees rather than at their talents, or is this again just a matter of taste with no objective criteria?

The final question is why the public can’t see through this whole Oscar business as one big promotional campaign to get everyone to tune in to a television show and to attend more movies.  All the singing, speeches and jokes are really just one three-and-a-half hour commercial.  Now, watching commercials is not necessarily bad.  Some are very amusing.  Some people watch the Super Bowl primarily for the commercials, but they know that behind the entertainment someone is trying to sell them something.  The same is true of the Oscars, but disguised as a series of genuine awards, awards with no apparent objective basis, complete with the sealed and guarded envelopes to add to the suspense – just more show biz.  But everyone takes it so seriously.

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