The All-White Oscars. Again.

Will Smith was snubbed by the Academy for his lead in Columbia Pictures' "Concussion."

Will Smith was snubbed by the Academy for his lead in “Concussion.”

By now you’ve probably heard, Hollywood has a race problem – especially when it comes to the Oscars. To quote Inspector Renault from Casablanca, “I’m shocked! Shocked!” An industry run by old white men seemingly only honoring whites at the Oscars is shocking. Hardly.

As respected, and not-so-respected, actors and activists assail the Oscars for excluding people of color, there is a movement to boycott this year’s ceremony airing on ABC at 8:30 p.m. on February 28. The #OscarSoWhite is the campaign and it is gaining currency. Some folks are demanding that Chris Rock show solidarity with the campaign and cancel his appearance as emcee. He won’t, but I am confident he will have some biting jokes the night of the telecast. And, of course, the media will continue to offer up lots of simplified coverage designed not to inform, but to augment ratings.

To many, this is simply a boring sideshow being promoted by some over-paid, malcontents, like Jada Pinkett Smith. Oh, and by the way, her husband, Will Smith, got snubbed for “Concussion.” Coincidence? Yeah probably not, but getting all righteous is a lot of fun. Yet for all the posturing, the charges and counter-charges, the truth remains, the Oscars ARE pretty white.

Spike Lee, Al Sharpton, Ms. Smith and the like have justifiable reasons to be upset with the Academy. In a year that saw standout performances by Smith and Idris Elba in “Beasts of No Nation,” neither got a nod. Only one black woman, Halle Berry has ever won Best Actress.
Hollywood is an industry slow to react to modern realities. It has blinders on. It is not crafting its films to mirror the ticket-buying audience. If they don’t wise up soon, they’ll start losing money. Or more likely, some other form of entertainment will gain ascendancy. (Television is having a ‘golden age.’)

Actor Idris Elba (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)

Actor Idris Elba also was passed over for an Oscar nomination. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)

So who does go to the movies? The demographic studies show that women, Hispanics, blacks and Asians are a significant part of the audience. Fifty-two percent of all domestic tickets sold are purchased by women, while less than 20 percent of all movies have a female leads. Hispanics, the largest growing film-going demographic, buy 25 percent of all tickets, and they are mostly portrayed negatively. Blacks buy 13 percent while Asians buy 8 percent. You do the math, 46 percent of all tickets sold in the U.S. are purchased by minorities. And yet they remain under-represented on screen, let alone the Oscars.

The above numbers are just in the U.S. Remember, this industry is not a national brand. It is a global brand. Roughly 70 percent of a movie’s gross comes from other countries, not American theaters. China, India, Brazil and Russia are Hollywood’s growth markets. Let’s not pretend that movies need to reflect America. If this the argument is valid, Hollywood needs to reflect the globe, and the last time I checked, the world is not populated by old, white men.
It’s not just the Oscars. It is not just racism. It is a changing world, and Hollywood, you’ve got a problem. Change or be changed.
– By Garen Daly

Garen Daly, is the director of the up coming 41st Boston Science Fiction Film Festival & Marathon Feb 5-15 at the Somerville Theatre.

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