The Hypocrisy Of Awards Season's Diversity Stunt

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic.
Last night’s Oscars were bad. There, I said it. The ceremony ran for four hours, which is too long for any live event except maybe a Beyoncé concert. The actual stage, which I normally wouldn’t have even noticed, was ugly. The performances were stale, and the winners kept it pretty bland with their acceptance speeches. It was also so white, and so male. There wasn’t even a Best Picture scandal to shock us all awake at the end of the night like last year. Jimmy Kimmel hosted the event, a testament to the Academy putting all of their faith in white men to be the authority on literally everything, even the issues concerning women and people of color. In fact, the 90th Academy Awards marked the end of an awards season that felt very contrived and hypocritical in its stance on issues of diversity.
Television has become a new frontier for storytellers to explore a broad spectrum of communities and issues. As such, the Primetime Emmys usually offer more of a spotlight to women and people of color both in front of and behind the camera. Wins for This Is Us, Atlanta, and Big Little Lies during the September 2017 award ceremony set some historic records and put the Emmys two steps ahead in the diversity game. However, in a performance of the most liberal cliché, the show also spent way too much time patting themselves on the back about it. Stephen Colbert opened the Emmys with a musical number that critiqued both Hollywood and our broader political woes. Gender, sexuality, race, and citizenship were all hot button issues that were tackled. It was overdone, to say the least. To their credit, however obvious the Emmys' super political opening number was, it was certainly entertaining, and the Oscars could learn a thing or two on that front.
At the top of January, when #MeToo was at peak visibility, the Golden Globes dared to go forth with yet another white dude at the helm, Seth Meyers. Make no mistake about it, women held their own at the Globes this year. A number of them brought activists along as their official dates, and nearly everyone wore Black in solidarity with #MeToo and Time's Up. But the allyship from men simply wasn’t there. Meyers’ made his best efforts to check his own privilege with a funny monologue where he had women and marginalized groups deliver the punchline of jokes he set up. But viewers had to rely on Oprah and the other women in attendance for the full show of solidarity, support, and validation.
Even the Grammys, which is all about music, couldn’t escape the allure of a white man in a suit. James Corden hosted the event in New York City this year. Madison Square Garden was full of minorities who took up space both on and off the stage. There were also a hefty number of diverse nominees (people of color are often more appreciated as musicians). But as the winners were announced, the reality of music industry sexism and elitism was more apparent than ever. Despite women delivering some of the most powerful performances of the night, they were snubbed in a major way, especially women of color. Rihanna hitting the gwara gwara couldn’t change that.
If I had to describe this awards season as a whole, I’d say that it was more than a missed opportunity. Last night’s Oscars were the most blatant example of this. The most privileged among us got to chuckle about the injustices of our time without being held accountable for their role in it. All of the time, money, and resources that were poured into production, paying hosts huge sums, and coming up with creative ways to talk about the disenfranchisement of marginalized groups could have actually gone towards making some serious change. Instead of parading Tiffany Haddish around for laughs, acknowledge Girls Trip. Create pipelines for girls and kids of color to realize their dreams in entertainment. Fund quality arts programs. Hire more women for jobs, including hosting gigs. It’s no longer acceptable to have white men talk about this stuff. It’s time for awarding institutions to do something about.
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