About half-way through the Golden Globes I got a call from my mom. Before she said a word, I could already hear the sardonic chuckle that would preclude a disheartening and accurate observation: “Not a big night for diversity, huh?”
After already raging through my apartment about Jennifer Lawrence winning Best Supporting Actress instead of Lupita Nyong’o and finding little to laugh about in Tina Fey and Amy Poehler‘s unfunny 12 Years A Slave quip, I responded with a heavy, “Nah, it’s not. As usual”
Here’s a small tally of how last night’s awards went down:
Non-white people graced the stage a total of three times, two of which were for wins in ensemble casts—Brooklyn 99 for Best TV Comedy and 12 Years A Slave for Best Picture—one of which was an awkward moment in which Diddy and Usher were presenting an award.
It’s 2014 and non-white people were on stage three times in three hours.
This, on top of the fact that I had to suffer through Reese Witherspoon trying to relate to the 12 Years A Slave and its Antebellum setting because she’s a Southern belle, and seeing white face after white face grace the stage with drunken acceptance speeches made me see red. Or maybe it was black. Scratch that, red, black and green for anger with a Pan-African vibe. Either way, it was a recipe for a very white disaster.
If you watched last night’s Golden Globes and didn’t notice how whitewashed this television and film industry is, then you’re part of the problem. If you sat through over an hour of red carpet ogling and the three hour ceremony and didn’t become absolutely blinded by the whiteness, you’re part of the problem. If you think I’m overreacting right now, you’re definitely part of the problem.
Sure, maybe you’re not making casting decisions and maybe you’re not one of the super secret voters of the Golden Globes. But if you’re complicit to the lack of diversity in Hollywood, you might as well be.
There are plenty of people out there who think that race has nothing to do with one’s propensity to win awards. But those same people probably don’t acknowledge the fact that black actors and actresses’ opportunities are far and few between compared to their white counter parts. Jennifer Lawrence will likely be nominated for a Golden Globe every year for the rest of her career as will other (white) Hollywood darlings and heavyweights. A talented woman like Lupita Nyong’o, however? I wish I could say the same, but black actors and actresses who have preceeded her don’t have the best track record in this regard and it doesn’t have anything to do with their lack of talent.
In the 71 years of the Golden Globes existence, a total of 10—yes, ten—black actors and actresses have received awards for Best Actor/Actress and Best Supporting Actor/Actress in film categories. The last one was won by Octavia Spencer in 2012 for Best Supporting Actress in The Help.
While Jennifer Lawrence could likely be nominated for every award on the planet for blowing her nose for 90 minutes straight, Talent like Nyong’o, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Viola Davis, Denzel Washington, etc, will–at best–be nominated every few years or so. Why? There are few award winning films out there with black characters. People like Meryl Streep play anything from a pill popping aging mother to a former Prime Minister. Unfortunately, the same level of range is next to nonexistent for black actors and actresses.
Of course, I’m not the only person who has complained about this, but these uncomfortable truths are already getting (white) people on the defense:
Right, the world only wants to see white experiences because only…white people see movies? Oh. Okay.
The fact that a call for more diversity in Hollywood is met with sneers and shrugs is appalling. It’s as if I’m supposed to believe that black folks in this industry rarely get roles as multifaceted as white actors isn’t an example of white privilege and white supremacy, it’s simply a coincidence.
Well, it’s not a coincidence that we don’t see black stories as universal as white ones. It’s not a coincidence that Viola Davis hasn’t been offered the wide breadth of roles that Julia Roberts has. It’s not a coincidence that black actors and actresses are winning awards once every blue moon. And it’s definitely not a coincidence that despite all this rage I have for a lack of black recognition, Latinas, Asians, Native Americans and other people of color are also typecast, ignored and have their stories shuffled into niche categories and genres despite the fact that all of our numbers and experiences vastly outnumber the amount of white ones in this world of ours.
This industry needs more people of color in a variety of roles so that we can’t count the number of black and brown faces in these award shows on one hand. But until we are seen as people with more than just one type of role to play, it’s not going to happen. Like I’ve said before, black success in this industry is seen as an accomplishment for black folks everywhere, but right now recognition feels like a pipe dream.
Don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled about 12 Years A Slave winning Best Picture. I felt as surprised as director Steve McQueen was after his actors, screenplay and own direction were passed over. But it barely made up for a night that did little more than maintain the ultra white Hollywood status quo.
Not a big night for diversity, mom. Definitely not.