Friday, January 22, 2016

"45 Years" Star Charlotte Rampling Has a Controversial Take on "Oscars So White"

Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years
It has been quite a week for the Oscars So White movement. What started with Jada Pinkett Smith's promise of boycotting (her husband Will wasn't too far behind) and even the potential absence of Mark Ruffalo, has evolved into a circus of everyone's own personal racial views. While it is nice to hear the conversation leaning more towards progressive views, one cannot disqualify some shocking comments that go against the grain, as is the case with Charlotte Rampling. After achieving a much deserved Best Actress Oscar nomination for her role in director Andrew Haigh's 45 Years, she has added her voice to the movement, and it doesn't go the way that almost everyone else this week has. In fact, you'll be forgiven for actually turning against her once you read her comments.

Speaking as everyone has had their say this week, it only seems fair to have Rampling give hers. The actress appeared on the French program Europe 1 to promote 45 Years. During the discussion, the elephant in the room came up: what did she think about Oscars So White? For those who have enjoyed hearing constructive criticism through Will Smith or even Will Packer, it has been an effectively engaging week. However, her comments were not necessarily what you would call progressive by comparison:
"It is racist to whites."
That was the pull quote heard round the world. Like Spike Lee, it could just be seen as a misunderstanding, right? It does make sense that to some extent older white actresses with privilege to their credit would think that it's unfair to have black actors compete against them. More importantly, the Oscars So White tag also feels like a guilt trip for harmless white actors who don't perform to be racist, but to hone their craft. It's a double-edged comment. Thankfully (or unfortunately), Rampling would go on with a clarification:

"One can never really know, but perhaps the black actors did not deserve to make the final list."
Things aren't looking great. When asked if The Oscars should apply quotas to increase diversity, she said: 

"Why classify people? These days everyone is more or less accepted. People will always say ‘Him, he’s less handsome’; ‘Him, he’s too black’; ‘He is too white’… Someone will always be saying ‘You are too’ [this or that]…But do we have to take from this that there should be lots of minorities everywhere?”
It's not the greatest of interviews for Rampling, and the fact that she gives a backhanded insult to the need for diversity probably doesn't sit well with audiences who want to see change. In fact, it comes across that she isn't just racist, but clueless of the world around her and its progression. What started off as a poorly worded criticism emerged as an unfortunate diatribe that may have cost her any and all Oscar chances in a field that's already impressively competitive. Who knows how it will influence her post-Oscars career, especially with the 45 Years giving her a career resurgence. It might not bother her, seeing as she stars in predominantly British movies anyways. Still, it's both bold and annoying to see someone outwardly dismiss progression like this.

Comparatively, Michael Caine has come forward with similar but more understandable views. He claims that he will not vote for an actor solely because of his race. He claims that black actors need to "Be patient." and wait their turn. Again, this is a sort of ignorant way of looking at it, but makes as much sense as those who don't typically see black movies. Caine probably doesn't even know about the black movies from last year that were good. However, he does have a point that rewarding diversity should be based on merit and not race. The issue then becomes that to outright dismiss one race's contribution to film culture is a terrible idea, or a bigger recognition of why Oscars So White still rings true for most. It is likely that if Rampling didn't come out guns blazing, then maybe Caine would be under fire right now.

For the sake of argument, here's a piece from The Film Experience's Nathaniel Rogers regarding just how many people of color (not just blacks) showed up in those acting fields over the past 90 years of Oscars. He posts the stats, which are:

1930s - 2
1940s - 3
1950s - 9
1960s - 6
1970s - 5
1980s - 17
1990s - 17
2000s - 29
2010s - 7

Just consider that. While the 00's gave us the highest nomination count for minorities, the past five years have not been as welcoming. In fact, it's the lowest that it has been since the 70's. Given that the decade is only half over, one could account that the numbers could easily double. Even then, that's a far cry from the 29 that made up the last decade. Speaking as Cheryl Boone Isaacs is insistent on making The Oscars more racially diverse in membership, it's a little bad that these numbers reflect contradictory measures. This is far from the end of the Oscars So White argument. Here's hoping that it doesn't come to the point where everyone feels obligated to reflect just how racist they are. I think that the conversation has been helpful, but it is likely that everyone is starting to regret liking Rampling's performance now.

No comments:

Post a Comment