"What I’m trying to say is, you know, it’s not about boycotting anything. It’s just, we want opportunity. We want black actors to get the same opportunities as white actors.
That’s it. Not just once. Leo gets a great part every year and, you know, everybody, all you guys, get great parts all the time, " Chris Rock said after discussing the idea of Hollywood being racist.
He had also noted earlier in the monologue that "If you want black people every year at the Oscars, just have black categories like Best Black Friend."
The snubs that many people were upset about this year included Straight Outta Compton, Creed, Concussion, and Beasts of No Nation including actors Michael B. Jordan, Idris Elba, Will Smith, and Jason Mitchell. Plus the possible best director nod to Ryan Coogler for Creed and people were plenty upset. I haven't seen all of the films, but I did see Creed and Straight Outta Compton and I agree with them not being nominated more is a snub.
However, Chris Rock points at something bigger. It's not about what nominations are given out, but the types of parts minority actors are being included in. Some of the films nominated for best picture couldn't have been minority actors either because they were a biopic or a period piece set in a time when minorities wouldn't have been in the position the characters were in.
Bridge of Spies hits both the period piece and the biopic idea. Odds are an African-American lawyer wouldn't have been selected by the government to negotiate a trade during the early stages of the cold war. But, why couldn't Matt Damon's character, Mark Watney, have been black or hispanic? There are plenty of minority actors in the film, but they are supporting and not the lead.
What if Zoe Saldana had been Ma in Room. I love Brie Larson in that film, but did the character have to be white? Would it have changed the content of the story?
The Revenant featured many Native American characters, but again the lead was a white guy. What if that character had been Native American instead of a white guy who had a Native American son? In fact, in some ways that would have made a lot of sense to have the guide be a native to the land they were traversing.
If the Academy starts making changes to add more minorities to the awards are they going to be films that are predominately geared towards that race? Or, are the casting directors going to start deciding that race isn't always relevant to the story.
Alejandro G. Iñárritu said, “So what a great opportunity to our generation to really liberate ourselves from all prejudice and, you know, this tribal thinking, and make sure for once and forever that the color of the skin become as irrelevant as the length of our hair.”
While, his words apply to more than just film, I believe the visibility of films and TV will be a great indication of when this way of thinking is no longer just an idea, but a reality.