Black Actors and the Academy Awards

Incomplete, but i don't feel the passion i generally need to really finish this and I'm not in the place I need to be for it to have the energy it deserves. i lost that while writing and I hoped it would return, it never did. I feel I made some good arguments and mentioned some valid points on American culture and society with entertainment media, I just never wrapped up either that i thought the problem was or how to fix it. A real writer wouldn't post this. Thank the god I don't believe in ii'm not a real writer and I can post whatever the fuck I want on my website. 

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I unashamedly and unapologetically love  much of what JF Sargent writes, I tend to agree with his opinions and I enjoy how he discusses race and gender issues in media and pop culture. I appreciate that someone is talking about this and it's not just the social justice posters on tumblr, it's not written from rage and hate, these articles are written from a point of view of 'this is what's going on and we as a society need to acknowledge and change this'. That said, I was right there when I read a recent Film School Rejects  article on the Academy Awards having issues with slavery and awarding black actors for their performances in these types of period pieces. 

I think there is a deeper underlying issue to address in conjunction to his statements on how rare black actors are awarded for their performances as slaves, I think we need to look at the types of roles that black actors are nominated and awarded for to begin with. I'll be honest, I'm using wikipedia for this information, I haven't seen many of these movies but I do believe that there have been respectable actors and performances that have been overlooked because of unacknowledged racism in the judging of these films and their performances. I have been critical of the parts that black actors have in movies, they're often terrible stereotypes that do nothing to improve the public opinion and status of black people in this country. 

Sidney Poitier, one of the greatest black actors from film history who worked in a hateful system and did the best he could to present a respectable black man in every part. He has been criticized for being 'castrated' and never really having a sexuality in his films. He happened to be black and that was the basis for many of the problems in his movies where he still delivered fantastic performances. He played educated men in many films, delivered fantastic performances and ended up winning one award fro his performance in Lilies of the Field in 1963 as an unpaid worker for some nuns and it's religious. His only other Oscar was an honorary life time achievement award. 

The next black man to with an Oscar was Denzel Washington for Training Day in 2001 in  a part that I sometimes consider questionable given his character was a crazy drug addict.  

There have been 4 black actors to win the Academy for best male actor, and Denzel is up again, I never saw Flight so I can't compare his nomination to Foxx's for Django, but this is another character of ill rebuke. Most of the best actor nominations have been for negative portrayals of black people, I feel this says a lot of the parts presented to black actors in American movies that they're so often nominated for being successful negative characters.

Looking at black women for best actress in a leading role Halle Barry is the only one to win, for Monster's Ball, a dark dramatic performance. The other performances that black women have been nominated for vary in the respectability of the characters but still seems to run dark and with negative depictions of black characters. 

There are 4 wins as best supporting actor. 5 for best supporting actress, one win for short documentary, 2 for original score, 5 for original song, 4 for sound mixing split between two men, one for best original screen play then a few special awards. 

The low number of wins and in conjunction low number of nominations stem from different causes and unconscious racism cannot be the only cause of this. Looking at how black culture considers the arts and types of arts that are acceptable for their children and what they encourage is someone that needs to be taken into consideration. But looking at the nominations, 16 for best male lead and 15 for best female lead since 1959 when the first black actors were first nominated in pitiful. How often were black performances looked over because they were by black actors? How often was the race of the character important to the narrative? It feels wrong to nominated and award black actors so often for performances where the crux of the narrative is on them being a black person. 

I'm not arguing or discounting what Sargent presents and his argument in how uncomfortable the Academy is with slavery but I'm also looking at the types of roles that black actors so often are presented with and how they reflect on so larger a part of American culture. The same considerations and criticism can be discussed with the television portrayal of black characters.

Dear Blank

Dear Hollywood (Television and Movies)

Give me a black person who speaks like a normal fucking human fucking being. Give me black people who aren't there as the magical black person, who doesn't do voodoo and doesn't speak English like they're from a fucking island. Give me black people who aren't from the 'hood' who don't speak like they're uneducated and don't have a real vocabulary. Give me black people who aren't characterized by the non-american aspects of their nationality. Give me black people who look and speak like normal black people. Maybe give them a bit of Africa and cultural pride. Maybe give them distant family members who were poorly educated and don't speak English right. Maybe give them a weave, afro or short cropped hair (if they're female) or dreads. 

Just stop making all black people either mystics, god fearing baptists, creole speaking witch doctors, illiterate, illegal gun having, illegal drug crazed, sexual beasts or well hung med. 

Just take all of the characteristics of a white dude and cast someone with more melanin. Want to know why Troy isn't the most annoying black dude even though he's not the smartest person in the study group? Outside of having been a football jock and therefore falling into that stereotype, he's a a developed and rounded individual. And Shirley, could have just been Christian sweetness and vengeance but she has other attributes that could be applied to any other race. Are they perfect and do they completely break out of racially constructed bounds? No. But what they are does not include being a laundry list of hokey stereotypes of accent and tomfoolery.

Hell, look at John Luther from Luther. He's not great because he can be a big scary black man, he's great because he's a fucking genius who thinks differently to solve cases and happens to be black which is virtually never mentioned as a derogatory for his character. 

Black characters can be written and understood without painting them black with bright pink lips and the whitest of white eyes and teeth. Black character can be people without being tinted with the hate and misunderstanding of the past. Black characters can be written as having aspirations and being successful and you don't have to be black to write them well. 

I'm ready to see black people coming from the suburb who didn't have problems in school, were well liked and well educated and have high hopes. We have fantastic people like Neil DeGrasse Tyson who show that black people are that smart, have the drive and potential to do the things that change the world for the better and our media needs to reflect that more often. So a homogeneous mixed race group of friends who don't fall into historically hurtful stereotypes, mix up people's strengths and flaws. Have a lead who's not a 'perfect' white dude and work to reflect more of the real America. Not the weirs country, southern conservative version of America where everyone's xenophobic, but an America that's growing and working on it's problems with Others. We need to work to a world where it's not an 'us' and 'them' mentality, just an 'us' and we understand that everyone's the same no matter what their skin color, sexuality, orientation, gender, occupation is. People desire to love, succeed, many reproduce, leave a legacy and enjoy our blip of existence as starstuff. 

In thinking about it that way, it's wholly possible to write characters of different races as being strong capable individuals without falling on old, unintelligent habits that work to only hurt.