For the second year in a row, no black performers were nominated for Oscars at the upcoming Academy Awards ceremony. As a result, both actress Jada Pinkett Smith and director Spike Lee are boycotting the ceremony. The academy has responded that they’re working on increasing diversity, but they’re obviously not doing a very good job.
For the second year running, #OscarsSoWhite is trending on Twitter. This makes 40 actors who have been nominated, over the last two years, all of whom are white. Both Will Smith and Idris Elba, who starred in Concussion and Beasts of No Nation, respectively, were expected to be nominated but were snubbed. Both films have been highly praised, as well as Straight Outta Compton, for which none of the black actors or the director were nominated.
Although Jones and Smith did not bring it up, the complete whiteness of the Oscar nominees hints at the larger problem of race in Hollywood, namely that not only black performers are snubbed or ignored. Hollywood has a real problem with whitewashing films, a term used to describe the casting of white actors to play characters who are originally people of color.
Perhaps the most glaring recent example of this is casting Scarlett Johansson to play Major Motoko Kusanagi in the upcoming live-action adaptation of Masamune Shirow’s manga Ghost in the Shell. Kusanagi is a Japanese character living in Tokyo, both of which are important to the story, but producers decided, instead of hiring a Japanese actress, to cast one of the whitest women they could find. Even Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games is described as having olive skin, yet is played by the rather pale Jennifer Lawrence.
Hollywood has a problem with race, and it goes a lot deeper than the lily-white Oscar nominations this year and last. Those are just symptoms of an inexcusable problem that should have been fixed long ago.