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The Oscars Are Less White This Year, But Both Hollywood And The Academy Are Still In Trouble

We’ve still got a long way to go

For the past two years, the Oscar nominations and subsequent awards have looked like a sky of puffy clouds drifting aimlessly. That the nominations were mostly white was the source of much consternation in the world of social media, as very deserving films and staffs were shut out at the awards. In 2015, the Oscar’s snubbed Selma, arguably one the greatest feature civil rights film of all time. In 2016, they snubbed Creed—not only a film with a black lead in Michael B. Jordan and a black director in Ryan Coogler, but the only Rocky sequel worth talking about since Rocky II.


In many ways, #OscarsSowhite was a on a perceived hierarchy—that within this culture we share there is one we like better than the others. This is the mouth from where a lot of the angst flowed. That, again, people of color were being left out of the winner’s circle deliberately, or were just passively overlooked. It spawned a million tweets, but the original was so pithy and so accurate it took the web by storm. It read, “#OscarsSoWhite they asked to touch my hair.”

When the alarm sounded, the web went to work mining the depths of why, possibly, the Academy could not find any nonwhite actors or actresses, set designers or cinematographers, directors or producers, or writers or costume designers they could bring into the canon of cultural excellence.

2017, though, finds the Academy nominating incredible people of color and stories of color in all sorts of categories. Dev Patel, nominated for Lion, is the first Asian person to receive a best supporting actor nom since 2003. Ava DuVernay’s 13th is nominated for Best Documentary along with Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro and OJ: Made in America from Ezra Edelman. Moonlight, deservedly, is nominated for Best Picture, along with Hidden Figures and Fences. According to Deadline, “Denzel Washington, Ruth Negga, Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Octavia Spencer, and Viola Davis all had acting nominations.” Negga received hers for Loving. All those are in addition to Joi McMillon and Nat Sanders editing nomination for Moonlight, as well as writing nom’s for Barry Jenkins, Tarell Alvin McCraney, and the inimitable August Wilson.

In fact, the African American Film Association called 2016 the “best year ever” for black films, but that doesn’t mean the diversity extended past that. The issue before the Oscars isn’t simply a voting block that can properly judge minority films, it’s the veracity of Hollywood itself. Even after Meryl Streep’s impassioned Golden Globes speech in which she uttered, “What is Hollywood anyway? It’s just a bunch of people from other places.” There remains a sinkhole of roles that do not reflect the range of women, disabled, Latinos, Asians, Middle Eastern, and Indigenous peoples. Hollywood has an opportunity to keep storytelling alive through these often-overlooked demographics. But, for them, Hollywood mostly has nothing to offer. Santiago Pozo writes that the Oscars’ shunning of Latinos is a “terminal illness for our business and for the relevance of the Academy awards.”

In 2016, USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism finished an exhaustive report on diversity in film and television. The findings weren’t that surprising. Although Latinos make up 17.4 percent of the population, out of the 11,000 speaking roles surveyed for film and television, they received only 5.8 percent of them (and those characters were almost always stereotypical). Although television shows like Jane The Virgin, Cristela, Superstore, and Ugly Betty are generally beloved, Latinos find themselves on the sidelines of high culture.

[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]How can the Academy possibly award a more diverse set of humans for their artistic splendor if there aren’t the kinds of deeply artistic stories available for those people?[/quote]

As Hollywood continues to put their heads in the sand, they run the risk of irrelevancy. According to Mic, Hollywood continues to ignore the bottom line: “Films and shows with diverse content were more popular in 2013 and 2014 for the second year in a row, according to University of California, Los Angeles’ Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies 2016 Hollywood Diversity Report.” How can the Academy possibly award a more diverse set of humans for their artistic splendor if there aren’t the kinds of deeply artistic stories available for those people?

“You need to have Latinos in the writer’s room,” says Felix Sanchez. He’s the co-founder and chairman of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts. Speaking to Mic, Sanchez touted the need for programs that provide a pipeline of Latino writers. The National Hispanic Media Coalition hosts a writer’s program that’s making headway, but, “diversity of writers is particularly important because they tell the story. We need more diversity in the boardroom, more diversity with green lighters."

Dedication to recognizing yourself on-screen for wider audiences to see is how you create culture. Without it, minorities will remain boogeymen and boogeywomen to exploit whenever a blowhard sees fit. The Hollywood conversation and, thus, the Academy conversation speaks to America’s devotion to crafting culture as a whole. It’s a process that must be addressed if we’re going to be talking at all about the Oscar’s ten years from now.

Articles
via Collection of the New-York Historical Society / Wikimedia Commons

Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. At the age of 10 he was given to the Auld family.

As a child, he worked as a house slave and was able to learn to read and write, and he attempted to teach his fellow slaves the same skills.

At the age of 15, he was given to Thomas Auld, a cruel man who beat and starved his slaves and thwarted any opportunity for them to practice their faith or to learn to read or write.

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Culture
via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

Communities
via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

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Politics
via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

Lifestyle

Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

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