I know that some folks are upset with the Oscars. Denzel had to call a white boy a nigga to get an Oscar. Halle had to bang a white boy to get an Oscar. A rap group had to rap about a pimp to get an Oscar. It’s discouraging but sometimes I wonder if black people are holding artist to a standard that is unattainable considering the realities of the entertainment industry. Let’s look at it from both sides.
Perspective from the black community:
The media is a very powerful tool and does shape perception. Therefore, when the only images of the black community are depicting us as violent, shiftless and possessing nothing but moral deficiencies, it’s hard not to get a little upset with seeing Denzel and Halle, two of the biggest black stars in Hollywood, portraying the characters that won them Oscars. It’s hard not to feel a tinge of pain when watching Three 6 Mafia perform “Hard Out Here for a Pimp” for an audience of white people.
The entertainment has this love-hate relationship with black people where they can’t get enough of our talent and at the same time don’t care enough about us to present the artistry of the black community in its entirety. Black people are well aware of the hypocrisy of the liberal bastion Hollywood professes and their actions. We notice that only a few black actors ever make it to the A-list and the rest are delegated to second-class scripts where their potential is never fully realized. We don’t like it so even when an Oscar is won by a black actor, it is hard to celebrate it because we know the truth and we are left to ask why that role in that movie and not one with a character with redeeming qualities.
Perspective From the Entertainer:
Dreams are a funny thing to follow. Say you’re a starving actor, busting table to get by and waiting for an opportunity. One day your agent calls and has a role in a pilot: Mookie and the Chocolate Factory. The script is full of cliche’s and stereotypes. The gig pays $20,000 for four shows. If a network picks it up, it’ll pay $10,000 per episode.
I really can’t blame the brother for going for it. Sure, it’s not a great role, but it pays and there is an opportunity for exposure. It’s easy to say don’t take it when you’re working a 9 to 5 but folks have to eat. When John Singleton approached Three 6 Mafia to write a song for the movie, I’m sure they were honored and heck, there is money involved.
I think it is fair to criticize Denzel and Halle because they do have options, but other do not have those options so they take the roles they can get with hopes of better opportunity down the road.
It comes down to having more blacks in executive, director and producing positions. It’s going to come down to black people financing more independent films outside the major studio bureaucracy. It’s going to come down to black people supporting films with different themes. We can’t just stick to movies like Madea’s Family Reunion and Menace II Society. We have to support the more artistic films. Can a movie like Sideways or The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind do well if the cast is predominantly black? When the answer is, on average, yes – then we’ll start to see a broader selection of movies.
Because the truth is, Hollywood is like any other business entity. They are looking to make a buck. We can and should hold entertainers to a standard but we have to support that standard with our money. I’m one that loves senseless violence, special effects and will tolerate a weak plot if those two elements are available in abundance. But I appreciate a good musical and a movie with a well written script and exceptional acting. There is no reason to expect anything less simply because the cast is black. Because I know we can do better… If you’ve seen Love Jones or the Inkwell, then you know we can do better as well.
1. Is it fair to hold black entertainers to a different standard than white entertainers?
2. What do you feel is required to get more diversity in the types of roles for black? 3. Is there really a problem or are black people blowing this out of proportion?
4. Should entertainers feel obligated to turn down degrading roles regardless of their financial or career status?