Are the Academy Awards actually racist?

Oscars 2016: How Racist is Hollywood?

Spike Lee is boycotting the Oscars because of a racism that is prevalent in Hollywood. In fact, statistics confirm his opinion.

Sometimes a small, more symbolic gesture brings the barrel to overflow. Or at least a short-term avalanche of indignation set in motion. On Thursday, the Academy announced the nominees for the 2016 Oscars - and for the second time in a row, only white artists were on the list for the Actor Awards. The cast of critically acclaimed films like "Straight Outta Compton" also missed out.

Now, among others, Jada Pinkett Smith, 44, and star director Spike Lee (58, "Summer of Sam") want to boycott the award night. Lee for very fundamental reasons. It is not the Oscars that are the problem, but the "gatekeepers" in the studios' chief offices - the people who give orders, approve scripts and casts, he explained. "The truth is, we're not represented in these rooms. Until minorities make it there, the Oscar nominees will stay sparkling white," Lee wrote in an Instagram post. The whole film business is just white.

White men seem the most lucrative in Hollywood

In fact, at least the director's thesis cannot be dismissed outright. The Oscars are the tip of the (white) iceberg: the annals of the Academy Awards show around 15 Oscar winners with dark skin in the categories of Best Leading Actor and Best Supporting Actor - by Sidney Poitier per year 1963 to Lupita Nyong "o, 32, in 2013. The Oscar for best female leading actress has only won an African-American actress once: Halle Berry, 49, was in 2001 for her role as Leticia Musgrove in" Monster "s Ball".

Looking deeper into the structures of Hollywood is more difficult. But there are statistics to confirm Spike Lee's gut instinct. Last summer, the website "fusion.net" evaluated 120 successful US biopics according to the skin color of their protagonists. The result: 99 were about whites, only 21 about people of color - including Afro-Americans, Latinos or people of Asian origin. The heroic stories of white men seem to be the most lucrative in Hollywood. Films like "12 Years A Slave" - ​​which gave Nyong'o her Oscar - are exceptions.

Another clue is a study from 2015. The paper from San Diego State University actually examined how often women appeared in the most successful US films of 2014. But it also provides a few side insights: For example, that 30 percent of all characters with a speaking role were women - and of these 74 percent were white. Eleven percent of actresses with speaking roles were darker skinned. A decrease of four percent compared to 2002. It is therefore entirely plausible that few Oscar nominations are also associated with few appearances.

Johnny Depp as an Indian? A flop!

Then of course there are also prominent cases in which even the ethnic minorities of Hollywood were given roles that were obviously tailor-made for the usual suspects: Jake Gyllenhaal as "Prince of Persia", Keanu Reeves as the half-Japanese sword master in "47 Ronin" , Johnny Depp as an Indian "Lone Ranger". Of course, these could also have been "security decisions" by the studios for well-known names. Which, by the way, all backfired and flopped at the cash registers.

Well-known stars of non-white skin color like to talk about their difficulties. Benicio del Toro (48, "Sicario") recently reported that he had been advised to change his name before his first auditions in the USA: "Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes I have made is not to change my name" he complained. Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o told Elle that she suffered as a teenager from not seeing herself represented on television and in magazines: "If you turn on the television and do not represent in this program, you become invisible to yourself."

Not a lot of work for colored actors

Whether quotas would help, however, remains questionable: Cinema is also art and should be brought to the screen according to artistic standards, just as Oscars should be awarded according to these standards. But it seems possible that Hollywood is rushing after a comparatively small part of the audience and well-established viewing habits. For a long time. In his blog "Every Single Word Spoken By A Person Of A Color In ..." the blogger Dylan Marron cuts all the sentences of colored actors in films into small YouTube clips. Usually not much comes together.

Marron had also tried his hand at castings as an actor. His personal perception of these appointments was sobering, as he told the website "attn.com". "From these auditions there were sometimes meetings with agents, and the agents would tell me by code or sometimes openly that there wasn't going to be a lot of work out there for me and that I would never get a role as a romantic hero." Marron is now getting at least attention: In 2015, his blog was named number 1 of the "viral blogs" on the Tumblr platform.

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