Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Oscars and Us

The Academy Awards are more commonly known as the Oscars. The Oscars and African American actors have had a strange relationship from the start. In the leading actor/actress category, African American actors have only won 13 times in the 83 year history of the show. Those numbers do not add up. Also, I have an issue with the roles that have been awarded Oscars. It is for this reason alone, that I usually do not watch this show. Clearly the powers that be are not aiming for me and my peers. This show is beyond whitewashed. It brings to light how colorless the industry really is. It's 2012 and that makes me so sad.

In 1939,Hattie McDaniels was the first African American woman to win an Oscar in the Best Supporting Actress role. It wouldn't be until 1963 before another African American would win. That would be Sidney Portier in the Leading Male actor category. There would be years before this took place again. In the years that followed, African Americans would be sorely overlooked. Den Washington, Cuba Gooding Jr, Morgan Freeman, Louis Gossett Jr, and Whoopi Goldberg would all win Oscars for Supporting Roles in great movies. It's amazing to me how greatly we've been under represented in these awards.

It wasn't until 2001 that we would see African American actor win in a leading category. It was an historic night in history for us. Denzel won for Best Leading Actor and he was followed by Halle in the Best Leading Actress category. Their acceptance speeches were amazing. Halle's speech touched on so many things. I cannot lie, I cried during her speech. In hindsight, I was disturbed by this. Denzel who is an awesome actor and has played great roles won for the one bad role. He won for "Training Day" and playing a dirty bad cop. Granted, I liked the movie. But, the portrayal was a departure from anything that Denzel had done. Great movie but was it Oscar worthy? I don't think so. His roles in The Hurricane and Malcolm X were better and greater. Those were roles that he should have won for in my mind.

Halle's win was conflicting for me as well. She won for her role in "Monster's Ball." She played a horrible Mom and all around bad person. She also had a deplorable sex scene with Billy Bob Thornton's wrinkled old self. I was disgusted at the movie. I was not impressed with the material at all. Halle was better in "Losing Isiah" and "Things We Lost In The Fire" to me. The movie was dark and very gritty. It was very emotional. Halle was very convincing in the role. But, I do not think that the role was Oscar worthy.

Since then, only four African American's have won Oscars in leading roles. They are Jamie Foxx in "Ray," Forest Whitaker in "The Last King of Scotland," Jennifer Hudson in "Dreamgirls," and Mo'Nique in "Precious." Jamie absolutely deserved his Oscar for his portrayal of Ray Charles. He was spot on. Ray was a complex character, an incredible musician who had a lot of demons. He was a drug addict for many years as well as a notorious womanizer. He was a man who had bad attributes. Mo'Nique in "Precious" was a deplorable mother. She was abusive mentally and sexually. Mo'Nique was great in this role. I hated her character in the movie as much as I did in the book.

There is a pattern I've noticed. African Americans seem to win OScars for deplorable roles. For being mean, loud, bad people in movies. Why is that? In the years that the Oscars have been around, there have been numerous great performances by African American actors. All of those were passed over for years. This is disheartening. People would want us to believe that racism is nonexistent becuase we have a African American President. This cannot be further from the truth. I believe that racism has played a part in the Oscars nominations and wins as well. I am not a woman who sees racism everywhere I look. But, I can and will call a spade a spade. It's a peculiar situation. I love to see African Americans in film. Especially in great ones. I just think we need to be rewarded for these works at a greater percentage. The stereotypical roles are the ones that are rewarded with Academy Awards. What do you guys think? Am I reading too much into it? Let's discuss!


  1. Not [reading into things too much] at all! Well put, well written. Thanks for the history lesson! (Well, I guess it's not history at all, right? It is current indeed.)

  2. It is sad that this is reality. It's crazy though.

  3. I saw this (link below) AND thought you you/ this post! Had to come share it... Random Black Girl Singing the Soul: