ByChristina Tenisha Small, writer at
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Christina Tenisha Small

The world could talk for decades about how Hollywood isn't diverse enough. How the industry is predominantly white, predominatly male, and predominantly set in the freaking dark ages. How the lack of roles for ethnic actors, and actresses is a frightening aspect of a glittering buisness that many (including myself) aspire to work in. How women's role in movies is still largely sexist, and rooted in old-fashioned beliefs. And how, above all, Hollywood - despite the thousands of people who believe there needs to be change - seems to be kicking its feet in, AGAINST diversity, clinging to its old-fashioned, sexist, racist ways with the death-like grip of someone on the verge of falling.

The world could indeed talk for ages about all of the above, but the fact of the matter is, a lot of people are too stubborn to accept the notion of diversity. There are those of us who recognise that something has to change, that in order for the buisness to grow and continue, it needs to expand its horizons, but for some insane reason, it seems we are scared of this change. We can't let it happen too quickly, if at all. And so instead, Hollywood throws us a bone every few years, fooling us into thinking we've made some sort of acomplishment, when in actual fact we have not.

Look at the picture for this article. Actually look at it. A collage of a handful of ethnic actors, actresses and directors who have won Academy Awards for their achievements in film. I say a handful, but almost every ethnic actor, actress and director to win an Academy Award for their talents in film, is in that collage. Here we are, in 2015, and the pictures of ethnic actors, actresses and directors who have won Academy Awards throughout the entire history of time, can almost fit into one small collage. A collage so small, it couldn't even fill your computer screen.

Yet, if I were to create another collage, one with the pictures of white actors, actresses and directors who had won Academy Awards, I would undoubtedly be here for the next two months, gathering pictures. Collating them into a picture so large, it would most certainly have to be split into multiple collages.

Oscar Bait
Oscar Bait

You see, year after year, the Academy Awards roll around. One of the most, if not the most, prestigious award show in Film, and yet, it has become predictable. Why? You ask. Because there's no diversity. There's very rarely a film nominated for an Oscar, that you didn't and couldn't already guess would be nominated. I like to call these films "Oscar Bait". Their "powerful and riveting", "mesmerizing and astonishing" storylines all focused and centred around caucasians, hanging on a hook, dangling themselves in front of the Academy of white, male proffessionals. It's no surprise then, that out of this handful of white movies, made by white people, for white people, that the Academy go ahead and pick white winners. Does that mean that the Academy is not at fault? Of course not. But when they're predominantly presented with white, it's simple maths, that the outcome of the winners, is also to be white.

Of course, it's not always white. No, once every few years, the ethnic people of Hollywood get thrown a bone. A small bone - not big enough that we can shout from the rooftops that we've finally made it, but not small enough that we can say we get no love at all. In 2009, "Slum Dog Millionaire" was that bone. In 2010, "Precious" was that bone. In 2011, "The Help" was that bone. In 2013, "Django Chained" was that bone. In 2014, "12 Years A Slave" was that bone. And during this years Academy Awards, "Selma" was that bone.

First you must establish the place of the ethnic.
First you must establish the place of the ethnic.

It's rather obvious when you think about it, but Hollywood has a pattern. As I mentioned above, there's the issue of "Oscar Bait" - white movies, made by white people, for other white people. But that's not Hollywood's only issue. They counter that with "Token Ethnics". These are the movies featuring one or more persons of colour, that you know for a fact wouldn't normally get a look-in, but the old white men at the Academy are feeling particularly generous this year, as they hand out "Supporting Actress" nominations to these movies, and if you're lucky, "Best Picture".

It's a damning process, one designed to fool and deceive, and yet still, when one of our own - when an ethnic actor, be they Asian, Latino American, Black etc win an award at these exclusive "white events", we cheer as though they have achieved something. We raise our hands up, as though being their token for that years awards, is something to be proud of.

The sad reality is, that Minorites and Ethnics in Hollywood are no more than facts and figures to execs. They'll throw us a bone when that Diversity meter gets too low, but other than that, we mean nothing to them.

To read the rest of this post, and see my in-depth analysis of the Token Ethnic problem and my verdict, head on over to the lengthier piece on Sublime Zoo.


What do you think of Hollywood's Diversity problem?


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