April Reign created the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite on January 15, 2015. Reign simply put voice to what Black people and people of color have so clearly observed over the years about the lack of inclusion in Hollywood. While it is to be said that there have been efforts made by the Television Academy and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to remedy this problem, there is not much that can be said for the institutions beyond. The dust of the performative ally-ship and outrage has long since cleared and now here we are six years later, next door to where we started. This time the spotlight is on the Golden Globes, whose 2021 nominee choices are raising valid questions.
As all art is subjective, it is to be expected that excitement and disappointment go hand in hand with any ceremony that doles out accolades. This year is no different, but also, this year is quite different. This is a year in which the world was altered by a global pandemic which allowed for more people to witness the plight of Black citizens in the United States. The murder of George Floyd sparked a global Black Lives Matter movement where people protested police brutality. Once again, the outrage was contagious and permeated the walls of corporations who promised to reflect and reassess how inclusion plays a role in their company culture. Black squares replaced profile pictures and filled social media feeds for a time and then somehow, life went on. There is no denying the talent of those who were nominated. There are lots of talented people who give great performances of many different ethnicities. However, it is clear that the opportunities and the exposure are being gatekept.
Even amid all the tragedy and trauma that is part of the black experience, beautiful and meaningful art was created by extremely talented individuals. That is why the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s snubs are especially troubling to see. The biggest shock was the complete shut out of Michaela Coel. There was no recognition of Coel who wrote and starred in HBO’s ‘I May Destroy You.’ This is a puzzling snub considering how bravely and brilliantly she explored painful and complex themes rooted in the human experience in the series.
The question now becomes, is it time to divest in these programs? It is easy to say it’s just an award show and it doesn’t matter, but representation and inclusion always matter and the exposure and opportunities that come with the platform are priceless. The answer to that will reveal itself in due time.
Until then, the truth is that there is always room and time to celebrate Black artistic achievement. There need not be an award show to do so. So, check out their projects and spread the word.