#OscarsSoWhite reveals systemic racial issues in modern American culture
THE SANTA CLARA
January 21, 2016
The winners of the 88th Annual Academy Awards will be white. Sure, there might be a couple of minority directors or special effects teams nominated, but the major award-winners will be lily-tinted. For the second year in a row.
While studio heads admit Hollywood could be more inclusive, they also add that this isn’t necessarily their fault. Sometimes no minority actors “merit” the nomination.
But the lack of diversity at this year’s Oscars is more than just a brief setback in Hollywood’s recent increase in diversity. This year’s nominees prove that years like 2014—Best Picture “12 Years a Slave,” Best Director Alfonso Cuaron and Best Supporting Actress Lupita Nyong’o—are the anomaly. White has been and is still the norm at the Oscars.
As members of the Santa Clara community and as consumers of media, we should care about what messages are sent through highly-publicized events like the Oscars.
“It creates this idea of ‘I want to be white’ or ‘white is better’ or ‘white is more beautiful,’” said MEChA-El Frente co-chair Jennifer Gonzalez. “What does it say about our society that (minorities) want to be white, or don’t feel valued as intellectual people or feel like they’re not worth enough because the media doesn’t portray us as important.”
Representation matters because movies are supposed to represent reality. Audiences base their real-life expectations on what they see onscreen. And if they only see white men in roles of noble power, then that’s what they’ll expect to see in real life.
This conditioning makes it harder for society to recognize when these men should not be in power or when they’ve done wrong. Moreover, it will visually signal that if a person doesn’t fit the on-screen mold, he or she shouldn’t be in an authority role.
In the same way parents rage when movies are too graphic, we should protest when the only “diversity” we see on film or television is the “fiery” maid or the “thug.” People, especially young people, need to see those who look like them succeeding—not in roles that diminish them.
The media furthers these deeply-rooted stereotypes about minorities, limiting what we expect from them. Real life issues like racial profiling or police brutality would be easier to discuss without these stereotypes and with more balanced representation in entertainment.
“The reason why the Oscars are important is because it showcases the fact that we, as people of color, have not broken the barrier of beauty, have not broken the barrier of excellence,” said MEChA-El Frente co-chair Isaac Nieblas. “As Santa Clara University students, we should not be thinking that people of color aren’t worthwhile.”
Santa Clara upholds a commitment to diverse perspectives in our community because coming into contact with different perspectives creates more responsible citizens. When films stick to stock racial roles, they miss an opportunity to educate their viewers beyond stereotypes.
“If you cast more people of color in these films, that’s how you normalize the influence of people of color in the media,” Gonzalez said. “As a Latina woman, I get excited when I see Alejandro González Iñárritu win or Gina Rodriguez win at the Golden Globes. But I realize they’re a minority within the majority still.”
Screenwriting, directing and movie nominating is out of our hands. But where we spend our money and our time is not. We affect the economic market, and as consumers, representation should matter to us because it dictates our conversations, shapes our culture, and changes the way we think about each other.
Snubbed biopic “Straight Outta Compton” might leave you interested in rap, informed about an important era or frustrated with discrimination. Either way, you’re learning about different people, a different culture, a different experience that millions have lived. That’s part of the reason we go to the movies, but apparently not what we’re recognizing at this year’s Oscars.
Contact Perla Luna at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.