A Gray Area in the Oscars

On Sunday, Feb. 28 2016, Chris Rock claimed that racism is more than all people having equal rights but also about all colors being represented at the Oscars.

March 4, 2016

Whether you watch the Oscars for the designer dresses, shiny golden awards, or the choked up actors and actresses, the Academy Awards are loved by a majority of Americans. Though the dresses, tears, and awards still remained a large part of the program, some things were certainly different from last year’s 87th Academy Awards. One major difference was all of the political attention on alleged racism in Hollywood. Many of the presenters delivered speeches related to the matter. But the host with the most to say, and the presenter behind the controversial opening monologue, was the clever and strong spoken comedian, Chris Rock.

The controversy was due to the fact that yet another year had gone by without any African American nominees in one of the four acting categories. This caused an uproar in social media and sparked the internationally known hashtag #oscarsowhite. Chris Rock addressed this issue in particular issues without much fluff but a lot of humor. I don’t feel that he spoke arrogantly but the speech was well-written, with great diligence and consideration. Though there were some very tough concepts and controversial moments that were written into it, he did handle his lines very well and decided not to mince his words.  

Although he has a very strong opinion, which is that Hollywood is very racist, he made sure his argument was well-rounded and addressed both sides. People offended by some statements were able to just plug their ears and feel that he made a point in their case.

But that isn’t to say that everything was quite that peachy. Rock stated that when people of color were fighting against segregation it didn’t really matter who won best supporting actress. “You know, when your grandmother’s swinging from a tree, it’s really hard to care about best documentary foreign short,” Rock quipped. But I believe that it was a little harsh, even if he was just trying to make a strong point. However, he did have a point: to possibly defend people that believe that this argument is relevant to the Oscars.

Once he had transitioned from seeing one side of the controversy he resumed the rest of his monologue, slamming Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith for boycotting the show. Afterwords, addressed the perceived racism in the industry, and then referenced and briefly spoke about police violence towards people of color. He went on to talk about the fact that people of color do not get equal opportunities to white people in the Hollywood industry. Something that I thought was admirable was that he didn’t seem to hesitate when speaking his opinion on the topic, even though there were some parts that were awkward and could have been worded more carefully.

An example of this was when he made a “joke” about shootings. Each year the Oscars acknowledge important people from the film industry who have passed away. Chris Rock then made the poor decision to crack a joke about how we should recognize people of color who have been shot by police on their way to a movie theater. Police violence is something that should be recognized but not in such harsh way and in the form of a joke. As I watched, I could see that the audience was never really sure how to react. Most of them sat squirming and looking around awkwardly. While the Oscars is a great platform to talk about controversial subjects, it seemed a little unfair that the spectators didn’t know whether to look sad, laugh, or clap.

Many families do not talk about racism on a regular basis, but Rock gave them a really great starting place for discussion. It was very clever that he compared the topic with sexism, which is sometimes a more comfortable topic. He said that “if you want black nominees every year, you need to just have black categories…You already do it with men and women. Think about it: There’s no real reason for there to be a man and a woman category in acting.”

Rock began to wrap things up by summarizing a lot of big ideas down to far simpler ones. He also spoke out about a concept that he calls “Sorority Racism.” He joked about  how Hollywood is kind of like a sorority in the exclusion of people of color, giving the example of “We like you, Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa.” As I see it, the type of racism that minorities claim to be experiencing in Hollywood is called systemic racism. I think that systematic oppression is a more subtle way that bias towards race creeps into Hollywood and affects the lives of everyday Americans. I think that he is trying to get at the point that it is something that restricts many talented minorities from getting the same opportunities and being treated the same.

Towards the end, Rock cut to the point that he had been getting at from many diverse angles throughout the monologue: “We want black actors to get the same opportunities as white actors.” Through the whole monologue I heard the most applause on that individual line, and quite frankly, it deserved it.

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