More than the glitter and glamour of the biggest awards in the world of films, and the headlines of Leonardo DiCaprio picking his first trophy, was the not so pleasant #OscarsSoWhite campaign.
This year, Oscars were in the eye of a controversy about the Academy Awards having racist undertones. For the second consecutive time, each and every acting nominee was a White leading to a brouhaha about people of colour being excluded.
There was even widespread boycott of the function after Will Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett first pitched for it and also much mudslinging on social media.
This is not the first time that Oscars have cooked up a storm. Way back in 1940, when the first Black woman won laurels as the best supporting actress in “Gone with the Wind” she was asked to sit at a segregated table in the back room of the Ambassador hotel in LA, where the function was taking place. And even that proved to be too much for people to take as most hotels of the time barred entry of people of colour.
Later in 1973, hornet’s nest was stirred when Marlon Brando had asked a Native American woman to accept or rather politely decline an award on his behalf, and the lady went ahead to make a regret speech over the “treatment of American Indians” in front of a stumped audience!
On the surface of it, the Oscars row this year seems to emanate from the fact that process of selection may have had slewed criteria; a fact that Academy seems to have accepted as they have now made some changes to the voting procedure.
Yet the muck runs deeper. One cannot look at Oscars in isolation. What about the big studios that do not make films with Black actors as central characters in films or drama schools which continue to have a far lower proportion of coloured students on their rolls.
The problem with Hollywood as an institution can only be seen as symptomatic of what ails the United States on the whole. Class and colour seem to divide.
The same United States that elected Barack Obama as the first Black president of the country is now backing Donald Trump. And the fact of the matter is that at least half of America was never comfortable with the idea of having a Black president in the first place.
In the US schisms run deep, and the malice is only festering further the more the geopolitical situation of the world is destabilized by forces like the ISIS.
People feel safer in close knit societies or with “people who are like them”. Which means the space for those who are coloured, immigrants, minorities, Muslims shrinks. No wonder the rodomontade Donald Trump gets standing ovation whenever he mentions that on his agenda will be exclusion – he says the US would have to stop immigrants, particularly Muslims, if it did not want to “get blighted like Brussels or France”.
Super Tuesday results only go to show that bullying and divisive tactics are winning. Eventually, Hillary Clinton’s inclusive approach may win if the finale is between her and Trump, but the latter’s rise itself shows #OscarsSoWhite is not a mere hashtag related with movies, but reflects much of life in the United States.
Else, a Black woman would not have got heckled at a Trump rally or there would not be such loud cheering when there was a mention of shooting Islamic terrorists with bullets dipped in pig’s blood!
At the end, films are a mirror of society and all its churnings. And the scandal that rocked Oscars is also reflective of a scandal brewing in the Republican camp.
Interestingly George Clooney, who has married a human rights lawyer recently, said on the subject: “If you think back 10 years ago, the Academy was doing a better job. Think about how many more African Americans were nominated.”
But more than a decade back seems like another era. Imagine how much the world has changed since 9/11 and the Invasion of Iraq.
While nostalgia has the great quality of blurring all that was wrong with the past and glorifying the rosy chapters, the world seems genuinely more peaceful from where we are today - Cagey and Trumped!