The trending hashtag #OscarsSoBlack is now a thing. Perhaps you haven’t really seen that hashtag. While there’s a lot of controversy around #OscarsSoWhite, “Oscars So Black” is another trending topic. However, here’s what is wrong with it.
Yes. In the past, there have been black winners at the Oscars. Many seem to think that “too many whites” is the issue surrounding the “Oscars So White” controversy. It’s not. The issue this year is that there were no black nominees for major lead or major supporting roles — just like last year. Essentially, according to the consensus, the issue isn’t “too many white” but is actually “not enough black” entertainers nonimated.
— Iribar (@4Iribar) January 15, 2016
However, Twitter users who are engaged in the “Oscars So Black” discussion are missing the subtle elements and undertones behind the past wins — specifically, their roles.
— Esmeralda C (@Merald__) January 21, 2016
Let’s look at these two cases for a moment. In 2002, the Oscars panel selected Denzel Washington for his role in Training Day. For this position as corrupt officer of the law Detective Alonzo Harris, Denzel won Best Actor in a Leading Role, as reports Internet Movie Database (IMDb).
Over a decade before that, in 1990, the Oscars chose him for his character in Glory — a movie about the American Civil War. In this movie, Denzel won Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his portrayal of Private Trip. Now, from IMDb’s description of Trip, he is “somewhat of a trouble maker, he breaks the rules and pushes everyone’s buttons.”
In both cases, Denzel was recognized at the Oscars for his troublesome, manipulative, and conniving characters. Since those wins, he’s been in scores of other films. He was last nominated for Flight, where he was a dependent alcoholic. Why not Antwone Fisher? The Book of Eli? Safe House? Remember the Titans? The Manchurian Candidate? None of these notable characters saw the light of day, as far as the Oscars are concerned. Does this paint somewhat of a stereotypical picture? No?
Okay — moving on to Halle Berry, a black actress who’s being meme’d in the “Oscars So Black” discussion. The Oscars only awarded this black actress for her 2001 character in Monster’s Ball.
— La Panorámica (@LaPanoramica__) January 11, 2015
In this movie, Halle played abusive mother, Leticia Musgrove. And if you recall a certain scene within the movie, it was so graphic that it would’ve fooled the eyes into thinking it was an actual “adult” film — or that the two entertainers were really having sex, on-scene. And, Billy Bob Thorton played the role of a racist prison guard, for that matter.
For this, the Oscars panel thought this black actress was worthy of an award. Before then, she wasn’t nominated. Since then, she hasn’t been nominated. What about The Call? Swordfish? Perfect Stranger? Gothika? It seems that the Oscars only felt that this black actress deserved an award after stripping naked as an abusive mother, no?
While on the topic, a few more actresses within the “Oscars So Black” discussion wouldn’t hurt, right?
The Oscars panel also selected Mo’Nique as a winner, in 2010, for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in Precious. If you saw the movie, you know she was also an abusive mother. This is the only movie for which she’s been nominated, let alone win.
— Another DH Fan (@AnotherDhFan) December 2, 2014
Are you seeing how these black actors and actresses are being awarded only for acting in widely-viewed stereotypical roles? A few more black entertainers can be discussed.
Did you happen to see 12 Years a Slave? Lupita Nyong’o came into the industry “winning,” according to the Oscars committee. Of all nominees in 2014, this black actress immediately won Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her enslaved black character. This is what won over all other actresses in the category for that year.
It’s the same for the director, Steve McQueen. Of all the movies he’s directed, this is the movie the Oscars committee decided was “the winner.”
What about Octavia Spencer? The Oscars committee chose her “Minny Jackson” supporting role as part of the help, in The Help — as the winner, out of all other actresses up for nomination in 2011.
— Love for Bryce! (@Love4BDH) December 31, 2015
Even for music, Three-Six Mafia won Best Musical Achievement in Written Music for Motion Pictures, Original Song for Hustle & Flow — another stereotypical “hood” movie — with “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp.”
— J Riggs (@sloshuaa) January 15, 2016
So, while there have been few black actors and actresses who have won Oscars, they were chosen for stereotypical roles. Unfortunately, from the committee’s perspective, black winners’ roles at the Oscars have definitely been so “black.”
What are your thoughts about the controversial hashtag? Why haven’t black actors and actresses won Oscars for other notable roles? Feel free to share your thoughts on this article.
[Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images Entertainment]