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Whitewashed Oscars

Awards show celebrates Whiteness

Matt Olson, Copy Editor

Recently, the Academy Awards received negative attention for featuring all white actors and actresses in its list of nominees. In fact, “The Revenant” director Alejandro González Iñárritu serves as the only minority individual to receive a major nomination. High profile voices have condemned the Academy Awards, but this year’s whitewashing is indicative of a mentality long held by the Academy.

Films like “The Help” or “12 Years A Slave” are occasionally nominated and even sometimes win, but the roles for black men and women in these sorts of films are limited to servitude. Additionally, films like “The Blind Side” and “The Help” show black people as unable to help themselves without a white savior to act as deus ex machina in their poor and unfortunate lives.

In the past, countless films have been overlooked in the Best Picture category, ranging from “Boyz In The Hood” (which was nominated for Best Director and Screenplay) to “Do The Right Thing” (also nominated for Best Screenplay) to “Fruitvale Station.” “Selma” was nominated for Best Picture, but overlooked in every other major category. Similarly, this year’s “Tangerine” was criminally ignored.

Beyond the Academy Awards’ overlooking black men and women in the entertainment industry, the division of English-language and foreign-language films would indicate an ingrained and institutionalized belief that English-language films should be kept separate from their foreign-language counterparts and are inherently better.

One can argue that the shortage of roles for minority individuals contributes to the lack of acting nominations for people of color, but this argument is flawed: why should any roles be designated as “minority” roles? What constitutes a “minority” role? Are white actors and actresses the default for unfilled roles?

The Academy Awards are considered prestigious because of the prestige assigned to the ceremony. Viewers will be introduced to numerous films they likely would have never discovered on their own, all films which are supposedly good. However, the Academy gets it wrong sometimes. Remember “Crash”? “Avatar”? How about “The English Patient”? The Academy doesn’t even remember that one.

Over the recent years of the Academy’s whitewashing, the Academy has shown itself as undeserving of the prestige the general public awards it. Perhaps we, as moviegoers, should no longer give credence to the awards and nominations the Academy bestows – though people who make excellent films deserve recognition for doing so, when the color of the nominee influences his or her chance of receiving a nomination, then what use is the associated award?

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