Showbiz / Spike Lee & Jada Pinkett Smith To Boycott Oscars Over Lack Of Diversity Among Nominees

Spike Lee & Jada Pinkett Smith To Boycott Oscars Over Lack Of Diversity Among Nominees

Showbiz Jan 20, 2016

The eagerly anticipated Oscar nominations were revealed last week, and they immediately set off a firestorm of debate! This time, it wasn’t just about the nods and snubs.

Critics and members of the film fraternity industry-wide took note and expressed concerns about the decidedly white-washed list of nominees.

Two prominent African-American industry veterans went so far as to announce they won't attend the 88th Academy Awards scheduled for February 28th. Actress Jada Pinkett-Smith and filmmaker Spike Lee both issued personal statements via social media essentially boycotting the ceremonies.

In a Facebook video to coincide with Martin Luther King day, Pinkett-Smith suggested that perhaps minority communities need to stop looking to established, mostly white institutions like the Academy for recognition. She said, “Begging for acknowledgement, or even asking, diminishes dignity and diminishes power. And we are a dignified people. And we are powerful.”

Lee was far less reserved and openly bashed the Academy in a lengthy Facebook and Instagram update, also posted on Monday, titled "#Oscarssowhite… Again." He said, “We cannot support it…How is it possible for the second consecutive year all 20 contenders under the Actor category are white?” He went on to suggest that the Academy and its processes were not entirely to blame but rather the “Executive office of the Hollywood studios and TV and cable networks” where the “gatekeepers decide what gets made” and what doesn’t. He added, “The truth is we ain’t in those rooms and until minorities are, the Oscar nominees will remain Lilly white.”

Photo Credit: Spike Lee Official Facebook Page

Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who is also African-American, was quick to respond to the criticism, admitting her disappointment with this year’s nominations. While she was careful to acknowledge that the nominees were truly worthy, she also mentioned that efforts to increase diversity among the Academy’s membership were not moving fast enough. “We have got to speed it up,” she urged.

Another response that gained a fair bit of traction soon after Pinkett-Smith’s video went live was actress Janet Hubert’s response to her. Hubert is best known for playing Aunt Viv in the popular series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air that starred Pinkett-Smith’s husband, Will Smith. There is allegedly famous and longstanding bad blood between Hubert and Will Smith.

While she acknowledged that the nominations were heavily skewed, she lambasted Pinkett-Smith for the stance she took in her video. She said, “People are starving. People are trying to pay bills. And you’re talking about some motherf***ing actors and Oscars. It just ain’t that deep.” She added, “you are part of the system that is unfair to other actors” and said they needed to get over themselves.

Actress Janet Hubert responds to Jada Pinkett-Smith's video on boycotting the Oscars.
Photo Credit: Screen grab – Janet Hubert Facebook Page

There’s no denying that the Hollywood machine is sorely lacking in diversity. While great strides were made last year with shows like Master of None, Quantico and Blackish, minority faces are still a rarity on screen — and recognition for these actors of colour is even rarer. If highly respected and celebrated black actors like Idris Elba or writer-director Ryan Coogler can’t make the cut, where does that leave South Asians and other communities that are just now being included in mainstream film and television?

Watch Jada Pinkett-Smith’s video below and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

Article Sources: CNN, BBC News
Main Image Photo Credit: The Oscars 2016 Official Website

Dilshad Burman

Dilshad Burman


Dilshad Burman is an award winning TV host and Canadian media personality.   Born in Mumbai, India, she was surrounded by its creative energy and grew up with a passion for music, film and television. While completing her Bachelor of Arts in English literature from The University of Mumbai, she i...