Once again, the Academy is under fire for the lack of diversity among the Oscar contenders. While this is a tale as old as time, the #OscarsSoWhite conversation reached new heights in 2016 after last year’s similarly whitewashed nominees. On Monday, the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, filmmaker Spike Lee took a stand in boycotting the Oscars.
The Chi-raq director, who received an honorary Academy Award during last November’s Governors Awards, posted his statement on Instagram. He wrote:
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.
Last year’s Oscar hopeful Selma, directed by Ava DuVernay (snubbed in the Best Director category) and David Oyelowo (snubbed in the Best Actor category), did not earn as much praise as many critics predicted. Among this year’s snubs were Will Smith’s performance in Concussion, Idris Elba and Abraham Attah’s performances in the Netflix original movie Beasts of No Nation, the N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton, the Caitlyn Jenner-backed Tangerine, and Lee’s Chi-raq. Despite the conversation surrounding the Oscars, Lee explained the “real battle” is much larger.
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.
Lee’s boycott comes after many members of the industry reacted to the Oscar’s lack of diversity. Straight Outta Compton producer Will Packer wrote a lengthy response on Facebook in which he called this round of nominees “a complete embarrassment,” while also addressing Hollywood’s larger problems with diversity. Chris Rock, who’s hosting the Oscars this year, joked in a promo that it’s the “White BET Awards,” while Jada Pinkett Smith, Don Cheadle, and many more celebs continue to speak out.