Though it started off as a typical act of social media protest, the potential boycott of the 88th Academy Awards is growing into a legitimate force. Jada Pinkett-Smith and Spike Lee rejected their invite to the Oscars in protest, leading other notable names in popular media to follow suit.
The #OscarsSoWhite hashtag on Twitter has shown up around the last couple of award seasons, but this year has seen the trend evolve from a humorous social media statement into a real movement across Hollywood. As usual the list of Oscar nominees lacked diversity, with no actor or actress of color getting nominated for lead or supporting roles.
This year, stars in the black community began to treat the issue as a serious matter. On Dr. Martin Luther King Day, Pinkett-Smith and Lee both took to social media to officially announce their intentions to not only skip attendance, but also to not watch The Oscars as well.
Pinkett-Smith, currently starring in Fox’s Gotham, took to Facebook to express her displeasure about the lack of diversity in the choices of the Academy. Her husband, Will Smith, gave a performance in the film Concussion that many people in the general public felt was Oscar worthy, but was not nominated.
Oscar-nominated director Spike Lee vented his opinions via an Instagram post attached to a photo of a young Dr. King. Lee has been a leading voice for change regarding minorities in Hollywood since the 1980’s when he began producing films for a mainstream audience geared towards demonstrating a more realistic vision of African-American life than had been previously depicted on film.
President of the Academy Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who is African-American as well, said in an interview that she was disappointed by the lack of nomination for minorities, stating that she wanted to speed up efforts to promote diversity. Issacs also didn’t want it to take away from the merits of the films that were nominated.
“Of course I am disappointed, but this is not to take away the greatness (of the films nominated),” said the Academy President. “This has been a great year in film, it really has across the board. You are never going to know what is going to appear on the sheet of paper until you see it.”
Even leading voice in Black activism Rev. Al Sharpton joined the conversation, stating that it was a cultural insult to continually omit critically acclaimed performances from consideration. This is just the latest big name to chime in.
Should this trend continue, there could be a noticeable section of invitees and viewers missing from the pinnacle of film award shows. While the Academy may be slowly taking steps towards improvement, the social media activities and potential boycott could make this a bigger issue than could have been initially anticipated.