Boycotting The Oscars Won’t Lead To a Happy Ending. But Black Hollywood Without Tyler Perry Will.
So, of course the #OscarsSoWhite is trending again at a speed faster than lightening. Every publication and anyone who desires a mention, retweet, or like can’t enough of it. It’s always exciting to be entrenched at the heated phase of a resurrected hashtag that was created to incite rage against the machine — but evidently failed since it has made a roaring comeback.
April Reign, the managing director of broadwayblack.com came up with the still red hot hashtag last year when the Oscar nominations only showcased white talent. Now we are back again with the same issue but this time the angry mob is bigger, angrier, louder and even more bitter.
Actress Jada Pinkett Smith is angry and bitter because her movie star hubby Will Smith failed to garner a best actor nomination for his work in Concussion.
Fair enough, after all — he was nominated for a Golden Globe which probably happened to appease him for his valiant efforts. In reality, Smith’s performance was passable at best. It was hard to concentrate and watch him without being distracted by his otherworldly accent that was supposed to belong to a character of Nigerian descent.
He also doesn’t do a very good job hiding the fact that he is desperate to win the golden statue. You see it in his eyes, in the way he delivers his lines and his overall disposition. He must be devastated beyond words that he was left out of the prestigious list of nominees. And no wife can stomach watching their better half writhe with pain in the bubble of defeat.
So, she does what anyone married to Will Smith would do — she challenges The Academy for its wrongdoing and announces that she and her husband will not attend or watch the festivities.
Director Spike Lee, another angry and bitter high-profile celebrity (and rightfully so) is also pretty outraged and publicly voiced his sentiments by also declaring that despite being bestowed an honorary Oscar last year, he and his wife will also pretend as if the day of the Oscars is just another Sunday.
It didn’t take long for social media to respond. Some champion the idea of a boycott while others remain unconvinced that an #OscarBlackOut would be an effective way to solve a problem that seems to rear its ugly head whenever Black Hollywood and White Hollywood collide.
I will venture to say that you, like most, understand that this wound is way too deep for a sloppy bandaid. It requires a level of attention that quite frankly has been lacking for way too long.
The reason for this isn’t as complicated as so many have tried to make it. It boils down to a community of elite talent who are too busy serving themselves to give a damn about the bigger picture.
Yep. I am talking about Black Hollywood. The rich and mighty who struck gold and spent a good amount of it fostering their empire which is a natural and valid tendency. But after decades climbing the sweet ladder of success — what happens when you reach the peak?
Well, I guess based on the current state of affairs — we can assume the answer is nothing.
Here’s an example. Both Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith have a production company — Overbrook Entertainment. If you go through the projects they’ve produced so far, you will recognize a lot of the names on that list.
Almost all the films except for a handful, feature Smith as the lead. The ones that don’t include, Lakeview Terrace with Kerry Washington and Samuel L Jackson, The Secret Life of Bees with Queen Latifah and Jennifer Hudson and randomly This Means War the god-awful flick with Reese Witherspoon as the blonde bimbo that two loser CIA agents played by Chris Pine and Tom Hardy (what the hell was he thinking?!) are vying for.
The last movie to to be released from the roster of Overbook is the 2014 holiday hit Annie that starred the adorable Quvenzhane Wallis and Jamie Foxx. Watching the movie was a torturous affair but Wallis was too cute for me to walk away with a permanent scowl on my face.
Nevertheless — I am going through all this to prove that people in high places rarely take advantage of their position in a way that resonates with their community. I hate to use the Smiths as examples but unfortunately I have to go there.
It is quite obvious that if Will Smith had been the only person of color nominated for an Oscar this year — his wife would not have felt the need to call out The Academy. She probably would’ve have spent that time commissioning the short list of designers who she hoped would make her look FAB on Oscar Sunday.
But, alas, the dream has been diminished and of course using Martin Luther King Day to express your disappointment is always the way to go. But is it?
Seems to me that Will and Jada haven’t maximized their resources in a thorough way and have been so consumed with trying to get him the ultimate prize that they have neglected to also bring along their own for the ride.
There are countless people of color in every facet of the industry who are waiting for that opportunity to share what they’ve been holding on to for way too long. They are brilliant storytellers with a wealth of knowledge and the energy it would take to work day and night until the finish line is on the horizon. But they are languishing because nobody will give them a chance.
But studio heads gave Tyler Perry a chance to destroy the landscape of black cinema with his concocted lethal recipe of hits that reek of stereotypical fare with spoonfuls of coonery for those who like it spicy.
Perry played the system and sold out his people by convincing studio heads that in order for black films to be viable — they have to celebrate the idea that we can laugh at ourselves while others laugh at us. It worked out well for his bank account but not so good for the landscape of black cinema that is undoubtedly still in disarray.
If you don’t believe me — just get a load of the review of Ride Along 2 starring Kevin Hart and Ice Cube by Shadow Act, one of the branches of Indiewire that according to the homepage tackles cinema from the “African Diaspora”.
The author can’t fathom how a movie as bad as this one could knock the formidable Star Wars movie from its prime spot at the box office. But that’s not the part that left me in hives.
It’s the way he nonchalantly describes how black films are generally perceived by the viewing public and trust me — it’s not a pretty picture.
“I suspect the real appeal of the film is that, not only do people find them just simply entertaining, but they’re also black films without an agenda. By that I mean the “Ride Along” movies are black films that audiences (both black and white) can see and never once have to be worried that it will deal with “issues”. Or, like as someone once said to me, that going to see a black film is too many times like going to see your child in the school play. In other words, you don’t want to go, it’s going to be bad and/or painful to watch, but you go anyway out of guilt, and the belief that you have to support your child.”
It gets better. The author then attempts to define what typically makes a black movie — a “black movie”. And he enlists the aura of Tyler Perry as an added effect.
“Well “Ride Along” is certainly no school play. No worries that the film will tackle racism or oppression (political or economic). No mention of poverty, no slavery, and just none of the usual issues you see in many black films. Just entertainment for entertainment’s sake. And when you think about it, very few black films are “issue” free. Even when Tyler Perry was at the top of his filmmaking career, every film of his dealt with those deeded “issues.”
So, as you can see Black Hollywood has a long way to go when it comes to proving not just to the mainstream consumers, but also the white men who have the power to hit the red or green button, that stories with delightfully complex characters immersed in a world that may or may not be familiar, but at the deepest core can be described as relatable, can feature a mostly black cast and garner mass appeal.
It will only happen when self-serving Hollywood elites take it upon themselves to venture out on a creative mission that will begin to close the gap and raise the stakes in a favorable way.
You can’t have it both ways. Nothing comes from nothing. Racism will always be the tragic legacy of this great nation but that doesn’t take away what we are capable of as a collective.
If Black Hollywood needs some inspiration to make that leap — I leave you with some good news from across the pond:
Former Eastenders star Bunmi Mojekwu to launch ethnically-diverse film production company
FORMER EASTENDERS star Bunmi Mojekwu is to launch an independent film company creating "unforgettable films" that…
And, that ladies, and gentlemen — is how it’s done.