This year’s Oscar ceremony may be the most interesting one yet. Will Smith, along with his wife Jada Pinkett Smith, have confirmed they will not attend the 2016 Oscars in the wake of a scandal regarding the 2016 Oscar nominations. Jada and Will have expressed outrage over the fact that, for the second year in a row, none of the actors nominated for Oscars are African-American. They also pointed out the fact that the voting committee which selects nominees is predominantly made up of white males, one factor which they attribute to a lack of colored Oscar nominees.
As BBC.com reported, Will Smith told Good Morning America that he and his wife are “uncomfortable” standing at the Oscars and saying that the under-representation “…is okay.” To the surprise of many, Smith missed getting an Oscar nod for Actor In A Leading Role in his new movie Concussion. Meanwhile, Matt Damon scored an Oscar nomination in that category for The Martian, while Leonardo DiCaprio got an Oscar nod for The Revenant. The host slated for this year’s Oscars, Chris Rock, is also being pressured to withdraw from the Oscars ceremony as part of the boycott.
Jada Pinkett Smith wrote a long post on Twitter broken into several tweets, in which she expressed her feelings that African-Americans are always welcomed to present Oscar awards, but are rarely there for the right reasons.
But we are rarely recognized for our artistic accomplishments. Should people of color refrain from participating all together? (pt 2)
— Jada Pinkett Smith (@jadapsmith) January 16, 2016
Jada also added that people of color can only be treated in the way they allow themselves to be treated. This, combined with Will’s statement, clearly outlines the reasons for the Smiths’ boycott of the 2016 Oscars. Famed African-American director Spike Lee has also expressed his refusal to attend this year’s Oscar ceremony. Actor Mark Ruffalo was reported to have been on the fence about attending the Oscars ceremony. Ruffalo has since decided to attend the Oscars, but expressed similar frustration with the Oscar nominations, and argued that the lack of nominee diversity is part of a larger, systemic problem.
Actress Janet Hubert, who played Vivian Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, fired back at Ms. Pinkett Smith on YouTube. Hubert told Jada and her husband that boycotting the Oscars simply because the nominations did not go Will and Jada’s way is unjustifiable. She also criticized the Smiths for making such a big issue out of the 2016 Oscars scandal when there are far more important issues such as war and political problems occurring in the world.
Hubert also suggested that Pinkett Smith may have been overlooked simply because she did not deserve an Oscar nomination and not because of her race. People have also pointed out that the Oscars are an important event for relatively unknown actors to attend, and boycotting the Oscars ceremony could injure the careers of the up-and-coming. Critics have also added that it’s easier for big stars like Jada and Will Smith to boycott the Oscars since they are already wealthy and well-known.
Spike Lee wrote a lengthy post on Instagram explaining his reasons for boycotting the 2016 Oscars in which he agreed with Mark Ruffalo’s position that the lack of African-American nominees represents a wider problem in Hollywood and the system at large. The New York Daily Post mocked Lee’s concerns in a headline detailing the snow storm coming this weekend, announcing that “This Weekend Will Be Whiter Than The Oscars.”
#OscarsSoWhite… Again. I Would Like To Thank President Cheryl Boone Isaacs And The Board Of Governors Of The Academy Of Motion Pictures Arts And Sciences For Awarding Me an Honorary Oscar This Past November. I Am Most Appreciative. However My Wife, Mrs. Tonya Lewis Lee And I Will Not Be Attending The Oscar Ceremony This Coming February. We Cannot Support It And Mean No Disrespect To My Friends, Host Chris Rock and Producer Reggie Hudlin, President Isaacs And The Academy. But, How Is It Possible For The 2nd Consecutive Year All 20 Contenders Under The Actor Category Are White? And Let's Not Even Get Into The Other Branches. 40 White Actors In 2 Years And No Flava At All. We Can't Act?! WTF!! It's No Coincidence I'm Writing This As We Celebrate The 30th Anniversary Of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's Birthday. Dr. King Said "There Comes A Time When One Must Take A Position That Is Neither Safe, Nor Politic, Nor Popular But He Must Take It Because Conscience Tells Him It's Right". For Too Many Years When The Oscars Nominations Are Revealed, My Office Phone Rings Off The Hook With The Media Asking Me My Opinion About The Lack Of African-Americans And This Year Was No Different. For Once, (Maybe) I Would Like The Media To Ask All The White Nominees And Studio Heads How They Feel About Another All White Ballot. If Someone Has Addressed This And I Missed It Then I Stand Mistaken. As I See It, The Academy Awards Is Not Where The "Real" Battle Is. It's In The Executive Office Of The Hollywood Studios And TV And Cable Networks. This Is Where The Gate Keepers Decide What Gets Made And What Gets Jettisoned To "Turnaround" Or Scrap Heap. This Is What's Important. The Gate Keepers. Those With "The Green Light" Vote. As The Great Actor Leslie Odom Jr. Sings And Dances In The Game Changing Broadway Musical HAMILTON, "I WANNA BE IN THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS". People, The Truth Is We Ain't In Those Rooms And Until Minorities Are, The Oscar Nominees Will Remain Lilly White. (Cont'd)
Whether or not the Oscars are truly discriminating against nominees, the Oscars scandal has managed to ruffle plenty of feathers so far. Let us know what you think about the Oscar nominations and whether there’s any truth to Will and Jada’s claims in the comments below.
[Image Via Kevin Winter/Getty Images]