‘Oscar’ SO WHERE ARE OURS?
I’ve been watching the Oscars ever since I could understand what everyone was saying, (and yes, preparing a very nice speech for when the day comes One of the ideas that always came to mind was that it would be really cool to be the first Latina director or the first Mexican actress to receive a little golden guy, but come to think of it, and as exciting as it would be, WHY HAVEN’T THERE BEEN MORE BY NOW?! Yes, there have been nominations, but come on Hollywood, it’s 2011. Start making movies about us already and not having non-Latinos with bad accents play us. And another thing, when we do win we’ll need more than 30 seconds for our thank you speeches because we tend to have lots and lots of family members and friends. Just saying.
Article: The “Whiteout” of American Culture
By: Randy Shaw
Date: Feb. 15‚ 2011
Last Sunday night’s Grammy awards offered non-whites an increasingly rare opportunity to be seen on a mainstream national entertainment show. With the ten Oscar-nominated films whiter than those in 1940, and scripted network and cable television shows as white as the days before I Spy, it seems that African-American entertainers are only visible when singing or playing sports. It’s even worse for Latinos. Despite steadily rising population numbers, Latinos are virtually invisible in mainstream movies and television. Nor are they given voice on national or cable news shows, including the “leaning forward” MSNBC. A troubling feature of this racial “whiteout” is that movie and television industries are not run by Tea Partiers, but by the type of celebrity progressives who blog on the Huffington Post. While these entertainment leaders donate to Barack Obama, their “whiteout” of American culture promotes cultural ignorance and helps ensure that issues affecting minority communities – such as the plight of our 13 million undocumented immigrants or the hardships of inner-city unemployment– stay ignored.
As census figures show the United States becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, those who fund mainstream culture in the United States are going in the opposite direction. Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott detailed the decline of African-American movie roles in the February 13 New York Times, noting that most of the Oscar-nominated films lacked even a remote connection to the lives of African-Americans.
But the world of scripted television series is no better. The standard situation comedy directed at twenty-somethings (i.e. Friends) is an all-white affair, and so-called “premium” cable is just as racially exclusive.
The Showtime lineup has no African-American or Latino stars. HBO is little better with the exception of Tremé. Given the incredible critical acclaim for David Simon’s previous multi-racial, The Wire, it’s a sad comment that HBO shows that he is not involved with are largely whites only.
The Social Impact
As fewer Americans read a daily news source, television and movies have greater influence in shaping public attitudes. When African-Americans are limited to portrayals as drug dealers, criminals, police officers or other parts of the criminal justice system, it sends a strong message that these are people associated with, and even tolerant of, violence.
When is the last time Hollywood financed a multiracial film in which a young African-American regularly attended school, worked hard, played by all of society’s rules but was then unable to get a living wage fulltime job? We have lots of movies about the white working class – both The Fighter and The Town are Oscar nominees – but the problems faced by the black and Latino working class are kept away from the mainstream movie audience.
It’s no wonder that whites have a much more optimistic view on the continued existence of racial discrimination than do African-Americans or Latinos. That’s another off-limits topic for movies and scripted television shows, which then contributes to whites not appreciating the extent of the problem.
The problems faced by the thirteen million primarily Latino undocumented immigrants, the reality of inner-city schools, or even comedies about multiracial workplaces are also out of view of mainstream moviegoers. Instead, our liberal Hollywood elite funds an entertainment culture as relevant to real life as June Cleaver wearing heels and pearls in her kitchen and the even more fictionalized life of the Ozzie Nelson family.
The Political Fallout
It often appears as if the Republican Party is not comfortable in a world of global warming, lesbian and gay rights, the structural unemployment crisis, and other features of modern life. Yet Hollywood liberals continue to fund an entertainment industry that re-creates this halcyon majority-white world and where none of today’s modern problems exist.
In other words, progressive entertainment producers are promoting films and television shows that bolster right-wing fantasies. Why? Is it all about money? Or is the insular white Hollywood infrastructure itself oblivious to the non-white world of Los Angeles that surround them?
Nobody is suggesting that producers create “Popular Front” vehicles where working people battle capitalist oppression; but it can’t be that hard to promote entertainment that includes the myriad daily struggles of people of color at all income levels, and which portrays African-Americans and Latinos beyond the standard stereotypes.
For example, a television series profiling a hard working family of undocumented immigrants could do more to pressure Congress and the Obama Administration to enact comprehensive immigration reform than any number of protests or elections. Imagine if each episode ended like the legendary, The Fugitive, in which the lead character must leave for another town every week to avoid being captured by police.
Some will argue that movies and television are all about money, and that shows featuring people of color would get made if they had an audience. But Tyler Perry’s box-office success has not sparked Hollywood to follow this model, and The Wire’s critical acclaim did not result in HBO adding any new series involving multi-cultural urban America.
It’s also claimed that movies and television series also fail to realistically portray working- class whites. But the above two films and many others refute this, and there are many television series – including HBO’s Hung and Showtime’s new Shameless portraying white working class families and their concerns.
The Obama Factor
Some believe that Barack Obama’s election as the first African-American president led entertainment moguls to feel safer in ignoring films and television series featuring non-whites. After all, how can they be accused of racial insensitivity when they backed an African-American for the presidency?
In light of Obama’s own primary reliance on white male advisors, and the exclusion of African-Americans (outside of his wife) or Latinos from his inner circle, there may be something to this. Many felt that Obama’s election would usher in a “post-racial” America – which for the entertainment industry means portraying the United States as it was in the 1950’s, with blacks and Latinos out of sight and out of mind