IT’S UNAVOIDABLE TO read about boycotts by black actors of this years Oscars.
What is it going to achieve? As English comedian Ricky Gervais pointed out, asians aren’t boycotting it, neither are any other minorities.
Maybe there simply aren’t any outstanding performances by black actors this year? I haven’t seen that many new releases this year, but if anything, the responsibility falls to the film industry as a whole for the dearth of black nominees. Black lead roles are clearly less frequent than those for whites. That is both a call by directors and casting agencies and writers. Yes, those who write can choose to have black protagonists or not, it’s isn’t difficult to do. Over 75% of Hollywood films are adaptations from novels. Why are there so few black protagonists? Is it our fault as writers?
As a white person, a human being, the majority of my stories have white protagonists, although my Dog Story novel in progress, has an Iranian in the lead role. It is simply as a result of my surroundings. I live in Scotland. Most people are caucasian. That cannot help but seep into my stories, and to suddenly have lots of black characters would be disingenous and inauthentic to the majority of my fiction.
Having said that, if I feel that a black character would be perfect for a story, then that would happen without hesitation. It has to be organic though.
So what is the boycott going to gain? It raises awareness. Yep. And the average age of the Oscar voters is over sixty, in itself a bad thing, as it doesn’t reflect much of the film viewing demographic anyway. So that needs to change. But the voters don’t dictate storylines and what colour the actors are in the movies.
The boycott by Will Smith and Jada, and other prominent black media figures, just seems a bit… empty, self important even. The world is far from equal and black rights are crucial as we move forward, however, I just can’t sympathise on the Oscars veto. The Oscar nominations highlight the absence of non-white actors, but the reasons for it are numerous. Hollywood must change. And crucially fiction needs to change. Yet, you can’t force people to create minority characters just for the sake of it. Where does that leave the debate? I’m slightly stumped myself.