Oscar controversy symptom of international racism



A YouGov poll asked respondents what they thought of the respresentation of diverse actors in the Oscar nominations for 2016. No minority have been nominated for any award

REID SLAUGHTER, Opinion Columnist

There has been quite the controversy surrounding the Oscars this year. On Feb. 28, 2016, the 88th Academy Awards Ceremony will take place. No minority actors have been nominated for any award. As a matter of fact, “Straight Outta Compton,” a movie primarily about black culture, was nominated for its white screenplay writers.

For some, racism is the first and obvious scapegoat. However, Hollywood is an extremely pro-liberal industry. Surely they of all industries in the U.S. wouldn’t discriminate against minorities. Some black stars have suggested that there aren’t enough directors and producers of color to create movies, and therefore, the statistical chances of a black person being nominated isn’t very high.

I suggest that it is something broader, something more international.

In 2014, Sony suffered a large scale hack and some of the emails leaked revealed the conversations of  people with power in Hollywood. One email in particular stood out, between Sony chairman, Michael Lynton, and an anonymous producer.

The producer suggested that “Sony should avoid casting black actors to appeal to an international market.” The producer then suggested the idea that those international markets are “racist” and hoped the message sent wasn’t “inappropriate or provocative.” In other words, there is a feeling in Hollywood that American audiences were more likely to accept a major black or Hispanic character as much as a European or Jewish actor.

We also have evidence of foreign markets not being too eager for a black leading role. In China, the promotional images for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” had the character Finn, played by John Boyega, either reduced in size or removed altogether despite Boyega arguably being the main character, if not secondary main character.

In 2015, the highest grossing Hollywood film in China was “Furious 7,” a film with a primarily white cast. The next was “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” another movie with a primarily white cast. After that, “Jurassic World,” and then in last place, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Hollywood now sees China as a potential new market. They already make billions in the U.S. and Europe, why not add China to the mix. However, the culture of China is different and may not necessarily approve of racial representation the U.S. finds normal. As a result, Oscar nominations for the second year in a row have gone to white recipients. Winning an Oscar only gives good press to  those involved. I wouldn’t put it past Hollywood execs using their influence with the Academy to help sales abroad.