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Variety to Hollywood: Shame on Us

Variety Shame on Us Headline

By Ed Diokno

Joseph Fiennes
Joseph Fiennes at Comic Con San Diego 2009


Just when it appears that Hollywood is going to make some serious movement towards diversity, along comes the announcement that Joseph Fiennes is going to play Michael Jackson in a movie.


Really? When I mentioned the need for creative casting in an earlier post on this subject, this is not what I meant.


The entertainment industry trade newspaper Variety, thought the problem of #OscarsSoWhite was serious enough to use their Jan. 26 front page with a white Oscar and properly placed the blame where it belonged on the industry. “Shame On Us” was the headline.

“The 89-year-old motion picture academy is absorbing the brunt of the public disdain. But the fault lies not just in the star-making Oscars, many agreed, but in ourselves,” read the cover story by senior reporter James Rainey and Awards Editor Tim Gray. “The Hollywood studio hierarchy remains an exclusive club chaired by White men and one White woman. The big talent agencies have almost no minority partners. And the media that cover it all — Variety included — employ only a few people of color.”

RELATED: #OscarsSoWhite – The Sequel

With calls for a boycott of the Academy Awards, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts approved changes that would increase the diversity in its voting membership over a four year period and move some of the older, White members who have not been active in the industry for years, into a new non-voting category.

More celebrities began to voice their opinions – Jada Pinkett Smith and husband Will Smith, George Clooney, Idris Elba and Michael Moore were among those calling for more diversity; Michael Caine urged patience; Julie Delpey, Charlotte Rampling made some questionable statements that demonstrated their lack of understanding but both later backtracked on their statements; even President Obama and Hillary Clinton weighed in on the issue.

But it was late night host Bill Maher who made the most outrageous assertion that the reason African/Americans didn’t get enough roles was because Asians don’t like Blacks in their films.

If the motion picture industry was a single business or a school, there would be picket lines in front protesting the lack of diversity or activists banging on the door demanding to be let into the exclusive club. Certainly, Bill Maher should be the object of scorn.

“This (#OscarsSoWhite) obviously reflects the lack of diversity in Oscar voters as well as in films generally. It behooves Hollywood — as an economic imperative, if not a moral one — to begin more closely reflecting the changing face of America,” said the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition in a statement.

While much of the conversation has focused on African/Americans, statistics for Latinos and Asians are comparatively invisible.

“Asian and Indian people are decades behind even Black culture.” said Alan Yang, co-creator of the Netflix series Master of None, in a Hollywood Reporter interview. “We don’t have lead characters. When we made Aziz the lead on [Master of None] and we made the character based on me one of the leads, it didn’t exist. We need that Asian Denzel (Washington). We need an Asian Halle Berry, and that doesn’t exist yet.


“But the demographics of America are changing, and it’s exploding,” continued Yang. “The interest in culture from the Asian and Latino and Black population is increasing every day. And as America changes, the culture will need to keep up.”

Clearly, the debate is not going to end soon – at least up to the Oscars telecast next month. Then we’ll see how much of Hollywood’s response to all the angst and fury is just a public relations strategy or if the institutions and the Euro/American men who run them, are really sincere by instituting the changes necessary to create a culture more representative of the audiences pay for the tickets to be entertained.

 Ethnic breakdown top 100 films in 2014


Ethnic breakdown of Oscar wins


(Ed Diokno writes a blog :Views From The Edge: news and analysis from an Asian American perspective.)


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