The #OscarsSoWhite hashtag has led the conversation around the 88th Annual Academy Awards since the nominations revealed all 20 spots for the major acting awards were going to white actors and actresses for the second year in a row.
But #OscarsSoWhite is more than a hashtag or alleged backlash for Will Smith and Idris Elba's snubs. It's a not-entirely-comfortable conversation about Hollywood's systemic issues portraying people of color and LGBT individuals on screen, as well as the scarce positions of power for them at studios in order to greenlight films that can win big awards in the first place. Heavy stuff, right? Start unpacking all of it with these great pieces.
1. John Oliver's "How Is This Still a Thing"
Last Sunday's episode of Last Week Tonight dedicated a whole segment to Hollywood's time-honored tradition of casting white people to portray ethnic people. No, it wasn't just a thing in the '30s. Just last year, Emma Stone portrayed a half-Asian woman in Cameron Crowe's Aloha. To add salt to the wound, there's typically a big backlash when a person of color takes on a role usually designated for a white person, Oliver points out. We're looking at you, everyone that wanted to boycott Star Wars: The Force Awakens because John Boyega played a storm trooper.
2."What's It Really Like to Work in Hollywood if You're Not a Straight, White Man, " The New York Times
The New York Times talked to some of Hollywood's biggest players, both from film and TV, about their experience as working professionals. The catch? None of them were straight, white males. Julia Roberts, Mindy Kaling, America Ferrera and more weighed in about disheartening experiences they've had from the classroom to auditions to meetings with studio heads and how their diversity has shaped their Hollywood trajectory. The story is a fascinating inside look at how prevalent stereotypes still are in the most elite offices in the world, but also a hopeful look at the generation of voices fighting to get everyone's story told.
3. "Chris Rock's Blistering Essay on Hollywood's Race Problem," The Hollywood Reporter
Before Chris Rock was named host of the 2016 Academy Awards or the nominations were revealed, the comedian wrote a powerful essay for The Hollywood Reporter about diversity in Hollywood. Rock has been in the business for over 30 years and helped to jumpstart the careers of JB Smoove and Leslie Jones, and his description of how hard it was to do that is an eye-opening read.
4. "The Missing Piece of the Oscars' Diversity Conversation," The Atlantic
#OscarsSoWhite is about the lack of diversity in Hollywood and the Academy as a whole, not just white over black.The Atlantic's think piece eloquently highlights other minorities that have also been left out of Oscar consideration, and Hollywood as a whole, before the big night. There was a loud outcry over Ava DuVernay being snubbed in 2015 for Selma and Idris Elba this year for Beasts of No Nation, but did you know that no Latino or Asian actress has won an Oscar in over 50 years? The story gets bleaker from there.
5. "The Oscars Will Remain So White If These 5 Things Don't Change," The Huffington Post
It's not enough to point out that diversity is an issue; there also needs to be a plan for change. The Academy has changed its voting rules to address the issue but The Huffington Post lists five other major overhauls that would change the process at the Academy and better reflect reality in films delivered to mainstream audiences in the first place. The piece reiterates what the whole conversation is really about: if the faces behind the camera don't change, it's hard to expect the ones in front of it to change either.
The Oscars air Sunday at 8/7c on ABC.