Unless you’ve been living under a rock recently, you’ll have heard the scandal about The Oscars – which, for the second year running, failed to nominate even a single actor of color for any of the four acting categories. But is racism the reason? Or are there other factors at work?
When it comes to the Echoba.se team, I’m the resident asshole. I’m the one who’ll defend #Gamergate, or complain about a black Hermione, or argue that the Hugo awards have become too political. But one thing even I can’t ignore is the fact that, yes, the Oscars are looking suspiciously white for the second year running.
It’s not that I disagree with the excellence of many of the actors and actresses up for Oscars this year. Bryan Cranston was amazing in Trumbo, The Martian was one of my favorite films of the year, and Leonardo DiCaprio is long overdue for recognition.
But 2015 also had a ton of great performances by non-white actors and actresses; and it’s a little weird that none of them got a nod.
Oprah Winfrey and David Oyelowo were both great in Selma, which was one of the best and most important movies of last year. Tyler Perry finally made up for Madea in Gone Girl, and Rosario Dawson and Chris Rock were both fantastic in Top Five. It’s also astonishing that the only people up for an award for the breakout commercial and critical hit Straight Outta Compton are white. Actors O’Shea Jackson, Jason Mitchell and Corey Hawkins were all ignored for their startling performances.
But perhaps the biggest Oscar’s snub was Idris Elba (I write about him so often, I feel like we’re buddies). His role in Netflix’s Beasts of No Nation was astonishing. It’s hard to believe he was ignored.
Or is it?
Because when it comes to Beasts of No Nation, at least, I think there’s more behind the snub than racism.
Beasts made cinema release history by being released simultaniously in cinemas, and Netflix’s online streaming service. At the same time.
This violated the long-standing agreement to give cinemas a 90-day exclusivity to show films, and in response AMC, Regal and other cinema chains refused to show the movie. As a result, Beasts of No Nation was shown in just a handful of cinemas nationwide; and made virtually nothing at the box office.
Not that Netflix gave a shit.
As far as they were concerned, the only reason they released the film to cinemas at all was so it would be eligable for Oscar consideration; and financially they were entirely happy with the movie remaining on streaming services alone. It was a bold move, but made a lot of sense for what they were doing. Along with Daredevil, Jessica Jones and House of Cards, Netflix is establishing itself not as a content streaming service, but a content producing service.
But I think that’s exactly why Beasts of No Nation was snubbed at the Oscars. Hollywood’s traditional elite looked at what Netflix were doing – further disrupting an already free-falling industry – and decided to kick them to the curb for hurting their traditional movie distribution model.
So in Idris Elba’s case, at least, I think there’s less racism involved in his absence from the nominations list, and a lot more butthurt.
But the irony is, this might end up hurting the Hollywood establishment even more than including Idris Elba would have done. When it comes to the wailing and gnashing of teeth about all the actors and actresses of color being snubbed from Oscar nomination, his name is top of the list. People are demanding to know why this incredibly talented actor was ignored; and that’s added more legitimacy to Netflix’s cause than any number of Oscar nominations could.
Ultimately, I think there is a case to be answered for snubbing so many actors and actresses of color from this year’s Oscars – especially since films of African-American significance like Selma and Straight Outta Compton were so prominent. But remember that there are more forces at play than simple racism; and a bigger impact by trying to disrupt the status quo.