THE VIEW FROM HERE – Arts awards, presented by a subjective process, are always inherently biased

Tom Henihan
Smoky River Express

For anyone with a vested interested in movies, it is certainly worth asking why for two years running, films made by African-American film makers and featuring black actors have been all but excluded from the Academy Awards.

Last year’s Oscar nominations’ lack of diversity incited vocal dissent.

This year, showing something of a trend in ethnic bias, with many worthy films and performances being ignored, provoked a more activist response with many people boycotting the awards.

Adding insult to injury, movies such as “Creed” written and directed by Ryan Coogler and starring Michael B. Jordan, both of whom are African-American received only one nominee which went to a white man involved in the project.

The same happened with the movie “Straight out of Compton” a quintessentially African-American movie with a talented cast of young black actors but again the only nominees were for the white writers involved in the project.
However, for those of us who live a long way from Hollywood, it is hard to feel moral outrage on behalf of already wealthy, privileged people who have not being invited to a hedonistic, self-love fest at a multimillionaires club.
Of course, between those who decided to boycott and those who chose to attend, it being Hollywood, each position seemed tempered with self-interest.

For instance, celebrity nobodies such as actor Jade Pinket Smith, who certainly was not conspicuous in her absence, got a little more press time by boycotting a party to which she was not invited.

One has to wonder if Will Smith would have become a champion of black actors in Hollywood if he received a nomination for his movie “Concussion.”

Others saw the boycott as an opportunity to have their voice from the Hollywood wilderness heard on social media.
Others again, contrived some rationalization to attend because they find no cause greater than their day in the limelight and commanding a substantial increase in pay if the evening goes their way.

Even the host, black comedian Chris Rock for all his bluster was playing it both ways, using the premise of changing the system from within as justification. Rock was not the only celebrity to use that line of reasoning as an excuse to attend.

Some point a finger towards an established bias within the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences while others lay blame with the studios.

Wherever the fault may rest, in light of other pressing issues in the US and around the world, issues such as young black men being gunned down in the streets, lead contamination in the water in Flint Michigan, armed conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere, having billionaires snubbing millionaires fails to get me riled.

Many in Hollywood refer to themselves as artists but it is my understanding that an artist gains fulfillment in the creation of the work.

While everyone wants their work to do well, prizes and awards misrepresent the process by arbitrarily placing acclaim on one project and ignoring another.

So many biases, creative and otherwise go into making these choices it is best to ignore them.

How many mediocre movies, novels etc. have received awards that have now faded into oblivion?

If the work has inherent value and integrity, it will ultimately gain traction, endure and triumph as art, regardless of ethnic biases and certainly regardless of the Academy Awards.

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