Race, Class and the Academy Awards

Alright, now that we are nearing the end of January it’s time to cozy up in this heat wave and watch every movie we didn’t care to see in 2011 but has now been nominated for an Academy Award! It’s always funny to me to see people who are not at all interested in seeing movies scrambling at the last second to see all the ones the allusive “academy” has deemed worthy of our time and subsequently their recognition. I never bought into the awards because it always seemed like there was something greater going on that I didn’t understand; almost as though it were a secret club I was never apart of and not totally accepted into. The celebrities walking the carpet seem pretentious as they conduct interview after interview dazzling us with their “realness” all while wearing gowns and jewelry worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s all one big charade and of course they fool us because they are the best actors in the world! They are paid more money than I will ever see in my lifetime to act human and reproduce real human emotions.

Don’t get me wrong, I feed into it too. I want to talk about the best and worst dressed just as much as Joan Rivers but I’d like to think I’m better because I do these things with irony. The reason I love Hollywood is because it is a condensed, better looking example of the social problems that are present in America. Africans Americans are under-appreciated and underrepresented, women treated as lesser beings, and white men are dominating. The industry very much embodies classism, sexism, racism, intellectual elitism and a sort of hierarchy that can be compared to a middle school lunch table. OK, enough about me and my rant about fake celebrities because I really do appreciate their work and enjoy finding out that my favorite actors are not terrible human beings. During Newsweek’s Oscar Roundtable, a few of my personal favorite actors including George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Michael Fassbender, Viola Davis and Charlize Theron sat around a table and answered questions about the Oscars and their own nominations. The notable part about this interview was the response Davis gave to the question she was asked by the host and Theron’s sweet yet misguided response to her response.

I completely understand what Theron was doing and I think she was just trying to do her fellow woman a solid by alleviating what could be an uncomfortable situation considering Davis was talking about her race in a room full of white people. The question was, “How is it possible that The Help was your first leading role?” to which Davis responds, “Well its just the politics of it all… there just aren’t a lot of roles. I’m a 46-year-old black woman who really doesn’t look like Halle Barry, and Halle Barry is having a hard time.” Theron interjects in the middle of what was sure to be a prime moment for Davis to say something important about being black and female in white Hollywood that definitely needed to be said in such a forum with, “I’m going to have to stop you there for a second… you have to stop saying that because you are hot as shit. You look amazing.” Davis responds in an appropriate manner by sort of saying thanks for the compliment but you really didn’t get my point. After a question from Fassbender, Davis got back on track talking about how difficult it is to be a black actress in Hollywood.

It’s true, Davis is not Halle Barry because Barry is the epitome of what Hollywood and the film industry think a black woman should look like, but isn’t she biracial? Not to mention she is as close to physical perfection as a human woman can get. While Theron was well-intentioned, her comment ended up being pretty painful to watch and was a little too reminiscent of one of the many incredibly irritating internet sensations, specifically, “Shit White Girls Say to Black Girls.” Theron in no way struggles to find work or endorsements for beauty campaigns and her “advice” just demonstrates the complete avoidance of these issues in Hollywood as well as our culture. Women of color in film and television undoubtedly feel for Davis and it is a shame that such a talented actress is being recognized for “The Help,” which has been criticized for perpetuating black stereotypes (Davis plays a maid to a white family in the deep south during the 1960s).

Clooney is my personal favorite in this clip because he talks about the unchanging audience and the goal of higher-ups to target white men in particular. He even talks about defending an actress who a chauvinistic director bashed and wouldn’t hire based on her looks. Now that’s something I can get behind.

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One Comment

  1. I think these are some interesting points brought up in this article, especially since many people in Hollywood consider themselves liberal.

    The only problem with the points brought up in this article is that there was no reference to Fassbender’s penis. Otherwise, perfection!

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