Oscars was Called ‘Lily White’ for Having All-White Nominees
When Denzel Washington and Halle Berry won as best actor and best actress respectively in the 2002 Academy Awards, it paved way for a new era for African Americans in Hollywood films. Halle Berry was in fact the first African American woman to have won best actress in the said awards body. This momentous event coincided with the year when Sidney Poitier received his second honorary Oscar award.
Now fourteen years after, Spike Lee, an important personality in the industry is calling for a boycott of the Oscars. This has been the second year in a row Oscars was called “lily white” for having all-white nominees in the acting categories. Joining the protest very recently is Jada Pinkett Smith.
If you take a look at the history of nominees through the years since the triumphant wins of Washington and Berry, one couldn’t help but think that Lee might have a strong case. In 2004, Don Cheadle was nominated for best actor for “Hotel Rwanda”, but Jamie Foxx got the best actor award for his portrayal in the movie “Ray” which was also the best picture that same year.
In 2006, Forest Whitaker got his Oscars’ best actor for the movie “The Last King of Scotland”. Now factoring all the nominations, the number of participations from the African Americans in the best actor category was doing quite well. Now it is in the best actress nominations that Spike Lee is making sense in his protest. After Halle Berry, there has only been three African Americans that got nominated for best actress- Quvenzhané Wallis (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”), Gabourey Sidibe (“Precious”), and Viola Davis (“The Help”). It should be noted that both Quvenzhané Wallis and Gabourey Sidibe were just beginners and those were their debut roles. They should be looking beyond the Oscars to determine what the real problem is.
In his Instagram post, Spike Lee wrote: “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. This is what’s important. The gate keepers. Those with ‘the green light’ vote.”