The ongoing controversy over the decided lack of color among this year’s Academy Award nominations (and Hollywood in general) got a new ripple over the weekend, as a pair of high-profile figures proposed an outright boycott of the February 28 ceremony.
Actor/producer Jada Pinkett Smith posted a video message on her Facebook page, asking, “Is it time that people of color recognize how much power, influence, that we have amassed, that we no longer need to ask to be invited anywhere?” Smith’s objection to the whiteness of the acting nominees is probably as much personal as political – husband Will Smith was widely considered an Oscar contender for his role in the Christmas drama Concussion – but her message is stirring: “We are a dignified people and we are powerful. Let’s not forget it. So let’s let the Academy do them with all grace and love and let’s do us differently.”
Director Spike Lee’s boycott proposal carries a bit more direct weight this year, as he just received an Honorary Oscar – though that award was presented in a separate, junior varsity ceremony that’s no longer part of the Big Show. (His comments about diversity in the industry are particularly on-point this week: “It’s easier to be president of the United States as a black person than be the head of the studio or head of a network.”)
But that honorary Oscar does include a ticket to the main ceremony in February, and on Monday, Lee took to Instagram – doing his terrible capitalize-every-word thing, but fine, that’s not the point – to announce he won’t need it. “I would like to thank President Cheryl Boone Isaacs and the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for awarding me an Honorary Oscar this past November,” he wrote. “I am most appreciative. However my wife, Mrs. Tonya Lewis Lee and I will not be attending the Oscar ceremony this coming February. We cannot support it… How is it possible for the second consecutive year all 20 contenders under the actor category are white?… We cant act?! WTF!!”
Lee reiterated his previous stance that the real battle is “in the executive office of the Hollywood studios and TV and cable networks” where “the gate keepers decide what gets made.” But he also put some blame on the entertainment media: “For too many years, when the Oscar nominations are revealed, my office phone rings off the hook with the media asking me my opinion about the lack of African-Americans and this year was no different. For once (maybe), I would like the media to ask all the white nominees and studio heads how they feel about another all-white ballot. If someone has addressed this and I missed it then I stand mistaken.”
Related: anybody got the number for DiCaprio’s publicist?