2017 Oscar Nominations, #OscarsSoWhite and the ‘Futility’ of Hashtag Activism

BRENTWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 24: Nate Sanders displays the collection of Oscar statuettes that his auction company will sell online to the highest bidder on February 24, 2012 in Brentwood, California. (Photo by Toby Canham/Getty Images)

Re: #TheOscars… not many surprises as this season’s been pretty predictable. I will say, it’s funny how people love to harp on about the futility of hashtag activism when after 2 straight years of ZERO non-white acting/directing nominees (out of a possible 40 performances and 10 directorial slots), this year there are 7 acting nominees of colour (out of 20), plus Barry Jenkins up for Best Director, Denzel doubling up as producer gets a Best Picture nod on top of his 7th Best Actor nomination, Bradford Young becomes only the 2nd black cinematographer to receive an Oscar nomination and a film about black women, who were the unsung scientists that helped put John Glenn in space, was nominated for Best Picture, has topped the charts for multiple weeks and is well on its way to making over $100m in the US alone!

That’s why this matters. Our stories are important too. This idea that Ridley Scott needs to cast Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton as Egyptians because, and I quote, ” “I can’t mount a film of this budget…and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such…I’m just not going to get financed”, is wildly offensive, incredibly problematic and demonstrably inaccurate.

The sudden influx of “recognisable” performances and box office success of black films didn’t just spontaneously manifest. It arose from a public outcry at our worth being negated… the Academy, studios, the money men, were shamed/enlightened/bullied/whatever terms fits… they were brought to see that our stories are important too… our voices, our faces, our champions are worthy too. Did it all stem from a catchy hashtag campaign? Of course not. There are endless ins and outs to this game but #OscarsSoWhite brought a problem to the forefront that we were happy ignoring, to everyone’s detriment, including the money men.

How we see ourselves matters more than you can imagine. It’s not about who does or does not get nominated for an Oscar next year. The bell has been rung and we will continue to see a push for inclusivity behind and before the cameras. And the movies will be better for it.

I’m so happy to see @AVAETC nominated for her vital documentary, “13th”. More please, more of these stories

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