Thursday, January 21, 2016

Mark Ruffalo Becomes First Oscar Nominee to Comment on "Oscars So White" Movement

Will Smith in Concussion
The news keeps coming out about the Oscars So White movement. In recent days, we've heard from George Clooney, Spike Lee, and even the potential step-down of Chris Rock as host. However, today is possibly one of the first that actually holds levity to this year's actual ceremony. Among the people who might add their names to the list of boycotters is Spotlight actor Mark Ruffalo, who is up for a Best Supporting Actor nomination. In a recent interview, he acknowledge his potential absence. Also, Will Smith speaks up after his wife Jada Pinkett Smith became one of the first voices to publicly decry the ceremony and refuse to go. To say the least, things are starting to heat up, and we're only a week out from this year's nominations. With a month to go, who knows how much worse things will get.

If there's been one conflict in general with this year's boycott, it's from the lack of comment from a person who may lose something on Oscar night. Among the nominees, the first to make a public comment is Ruffalo. The three time Oscar nominee made a familiar set of comments regarding The Oscars regarding racial diversity during an interview with the BBC. He blames that "the American system" is more to blame than The Academy specifically and things need to be done in order to course correct the history. He also stated that he is thinking about boycotting the ceremony:
"I'm weighing it, yes. That's where I'm at right now. I woke up in the morning thinking what is the right way to do this. If you look at Martin Luther King's legacy, what he was saying was that the good people who don't act are much worse than the wrongdoers who are purposely not acting and don't know the right way."
So while this isn't a direct middle finger to the ceremony, it's the first comment to hold deeper levity than sheer jealousy. While you could argue that Lee is also a recipient this year for his Honorary Oscar, his refusal wasn't specifically about being offended by Oscars So White, but his desire to attend The Knick basketball game that evening instead (which is in keeping with his personality). However, Will Smith comes forward after his wife has received a lot of press over the past few days to finally make his own comment. While he doesn't address the likely subliminal reason (being snubbed for Concussion), he does have the familiar cries:
"I think that diversity is the American super-power. That's why we're great. So many different people from so many different places adding their ideas, their ispiration, and their influences to this beautiful American gumbo. For me, at its best, Hollywood represents and then creates the imagery for that beauty. But for my part, I think that I have to protect and fight for the ideals that make our country and make our Hollywood community great. And so when I look at the series of nominations of the Academy, it's not reflecting the beauty."
It is likely the best put statement so far regarding the diversity issue. While there's likely some bitterness in the Smith family regarding his own snubbing, it does seem fair to say that Smith is taking it well. Considering that he goes on to address his own career with The Academy (he is a two time nominee), he notes that both times he lost to black actors. If nothing else, that is a bigger indictment of the system than having no nominees. The fact there used to be multiple nominees of color does continue to prove that maybe things used to be fairer. Still, his boycott makes sense, if just because he wouldn't disagree with his wife like that. As arguably one of the most influential black actors of the past 20 years, his words mean a lot and if nothing else reflects the many more outcries that are likely to happen in the weeks to come.

While I insist that I am not probably going to cover Oscars So White with in depth details, I am likely to continue to comment on it when big names make their presence known. Hopefully things will get better before they get worse. Still, to have an actual Oscar nominee and one of the most influential performers both come public with their own disinterest will hopefully get more people to recognize. It may be too late to change those boycotting, but hopefully it will convince those who do to actually make a difference so that things could at least be a lot more fair next year. Thankfully, we've acknowledged that this is more than an Oscars problem. If nothing else, hopefully this will change come this time next year.

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