I was reading an article about actress, Jada Pinkett Smith threatening to boycott the Oscars(an awards’ show that awards actors) because her husband, actor, Will Smith wasn’t nominated in any category at the event. In fact, there wasn’t any Black actor or actress nominated in any category at the Oscars this year. Many Black actors and actresses joined Jada Pinkett Smith in boycotting of the Oscars. However, her decision to boycott the Oscars has led to backlash and a discussion on Black ownership of media outlets. Hence I believe that it is important for Black Americans to build and own their own media outlets so that Black American actors and actresses can have equal representation.
Here is a picture of actress, Jada Pinkett Smith.
Here is a picture of director, Spike Lee
Director, Spike Lee was among the many Black celebrities who joined Jada Pinkett Smith in boycotting the Oscars. Both she and Spike Lee pointed out that it was time that Black Americans made their own media so that Black actors and actresses could have their talents and accomplishments recognized. Many Black actors and actresses applauded their her decision however I believe that Jada Pinkett Smith’s advocacy is somehow self serving and futile. Did anyone heard her calling for Black entertainers to come together and build their own media outlets prior to this incident? The sound of *crickets*. Now that her husband was snubbed of receiving a nomination at the Oscars, she wants to act like Assata Shakur and put together a Black media outlet. Why didn’t she and her husband, Will Smith put together a Black owned media outlet that positively represents Black actors and actresses instead of begging for validation from a White owned and ran institution? I guess White validation and acceptance means more than building, owning and maintaining Black owned institutions in the minds of many Black people.
It wasn’t long until her husband, Will Smith followed suit. He has decided not to attend the Oscars. Will Smith expressed his discontent with the lack of representation of Black and brown people in the entertainment industry in an interview with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America. Although Will Smith was trying to be humorous with Robin Roberts, I could feel the underlying discontent in his voice about what was going on in the entertainment industry. Ironically, this was the same man who said that racism was hardly a priority or existed anymore several years back. In his case, reality always has a way of humbling people and bringing them back to earth.
Here is a video of Will Smith’s interview with Robin Roberts.
As much as Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith had supporters on their side, there were other people who weren’t so happy with advocating for diversity in the entertainment industry. There were many White actors and actresses who believed that advocating for diversity in Hollywood was ”racist against White people”. Among such critics was a British actress, Charlotte Rumpling. She believed that the Oscars’ nominations of all White actors were fair and suggested that many Black actors and actresses probably weren’t ”good enough” to be nominated. Of course, Rumpling received backlash for her comments on Twitter and other social media outlets. She claimed that her comments were misinterpreted but the damage is done. Rumpling didn’t need to apologize for something that she believes to be true. After all, everyone is entitled to their own opinion regardless of how ridiculous and ignorant it may sound to others.
The whole Oscar debacle initiates a conversation about representation of Black actors and actresses in Hollywood. Black actors and actresses haven’t ever been fairly represented in Hollywood. Hollywood has always been White ran and owned. White actors always received more shine and recognition for their talents than their Black counterparts. However, opportunities and good, acting roles for Black actors and actresses was even worse decades ago when the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and John Wayne graced magazine covers. Black actresses and actors weren’t even recognized for their talent unless they portrayed a maid, sidekick or thug on a television show or movie. Needless to say, much hasn’t really changed in that regard. Black actresses only represent 14% of actresses in Hollywood and Black actors and actresses only represent 11% of actors overall. Black actors and actresses are still given less opportunities than their White counterparts and are mostly rewarded when portrayed a stereotypical role despite the growing number of Black actors and actresses rising up and becoming more notable in Hollywood. Even though the likes of Black female directors such as Rhonda Rhimes would have been impossible in ”Old Hollywood”, there is still a problem with the lack of diversity in Hollywood.
What is the solution to the lack of diversity in mainstream Hollywood?
I believe that there needs to be more Black directors such as Rhonda Rhimes producing and writing their own television shows. When more Black directors rise up to write and produce their own media, more Black actors and actresses would most likely be hired to acting roles that pay well. Having a Black owned media outlet is essential because it is important for Black Americans to control their own image. It is important to have an media outlet where Black Americans can promote a three dimensional and productive image of themselves to the world. Especially when it comes to employing Black actors and actresses to acting roles and having their talent recognized. Other races and ethnicities have their own media outlets that they rely on such as India’s Bollywood, Nigeria’s Nollywood, Latin America’s Telemundo and Univision for representation. Why can’t Black Americans do the same? The reason why Black Americans haven’t and couldn’t come up with their own media outlet because many of them believe that progressing in Hollywood would better their chances of finding quality acting roles in Hollywood. To them, accepting scraps from their oppressors was better than not having anything at all. It is not to say that Hispanic, Asians and other races and ethnicities are immune from accepting scraps from their oppressors however the lack of unity and resources in Black America fuels this problem. Thus setting up a Black owned media that accurately and widely represents and recognizes the talents and accomplishments of Black actors and actresses is the solution to the lack of diversity in Hollywood.
How will setting up a Black owned media affect Black women’s representation in the media?
Well, Black actresses make up 14% of actresses in Hollywood. Black actresses such as Lupita N’Yong’O, Viola Davis, Gabrielle Union and Kerry Washington are making huge strides in the entertainment world however Black actresses are still underrepresented. Especially if the Black actress happens to be brown to dark skin. Having a Black owned media that represents Black women especially brown to dark skin Black women would be very beneficial to Black actresses. Hiring Black actresses to roles where they are portrayed as desirable, beautiful and as love interests is a must as a counteraction to the mainstream media’s portrayal of Black women as ugly and undesirable. Plus these Black actresses would have more opportunities to find jobs and work if a Black owned media outlet existed.
Unfortunately, not everything is an absolute. Planning, building and maintaining a Black media outlet is much easier said than done. Many Black actors and actresses would rather settle for crumbs from their oppressors than build their own media. And there are many Black people out there wouldn’t go out and support a predominately Black film. Plus it takes a lot of time to write and produce movies and television shows and it would be a waste if these shows and movies were flops. However, I do believe that setting up a Black media outlet is good idea in ensuring that Black actors and actresses are represented and recognized for their talent.
Most of all, it is essential for an ethnic group to build, maintain and support their own infrastructure. Building, supporting and maintaining a Black owned media outlet would only strengthen the perception and image of Black Americans. Plus it would also give Black actors and actresses jobs and representation for their talent and accomplishments in the field of entertainment. It is time that Black actors and actresses receive the representation that they deserve thus building a Black owned media outlet would ensure this.
Links to the information that I received: