Written by Cheryl Contee, Jack & Jill Politics
Despite my best instincts, I ended up watching most of the Oscars last night. People around the world watch the Oscars – it’s a big deal and one of our major cultural exports to the global consciousness.
So it was disappointing and infuriating to see so much unnecessary racism on display in the interest of oblivious jokes that highlighted how out of touch Hollywood celebrities are. If you’re following me on Twitter, you probably saw a few of my reactions in real-time. Here’s a more in-depth summary of Crystal’s compelling performance as Best Racist in An Academy Award Show.
First, in the opening video montage, we were treated to a skit based on the movie Midnight in Paris where Justin Bieber interacts with a Billy Crystal in blackface playing Sammy Davis Jr. For no reason? Why did this have to happen? I was willing to let that one go as ill-advised, old-mannish & clumsy and then…
Octavia Spencer wins Best Supporting Actress for her performance as an oppressed black maid in the South. Good for her, I guess, but will one of us ever win an Oscar for a portrayal of someone other than a minstrel, child-abusing welfare recipient, servant or a criminal? I’m just asking the question: is it possible? Will I live to see it? Unclear at this point. According to theGrio:
Her brash character holds a personal connection: “The Help” author Kathryn Stockett based some of the woman’s traits on Spencer, whom she met through childhood pal Tate Taylor, the director of the film.
Short pause for eyeroll. Anyway. I was just coping with my mixed feelings about that win when Billy Crystal says something about how after he saw the Help, he “wanted to hug a black woman” but would have to drive 45 min from Beverly Hills to find one! Ha Ha Ha! (are you laughing yet?)
So that was bruising. But Oscar wasn’t finished showcasing America’s racial blindspot to the entire world. In a video skit about a focus group watching a test screening, it’s announced that Gone With The Wind is next up. Someone then excitedly says “I hope it has monkeys in it!” Wow. That one was like a sucker punch and a backslap all in one.
At some point (I missed it), Crystal also said:
One of the most-talked performances of year has got to be Octavia Spencer’s in “The Help.” Not only is she a great actress, but she’s incredibly gracious. If she doesn’t win, she’s promised to leave the show early to help make pastries at the Governor’s Ball.
Hmmm. The coup de grace was when “Undefeated” won best documentary feature (it’s about – sigh – high school football and produced in part by P.Diddy), making it the first ever win for a black director for a full-length film of any kind. T.J. Martin was co-director and despite the historic nature of the moment, his white co-director hogged the spotlight. When T.J. finally spoke, he dropped the F-bomb, didn’t say anything to encourage other black directors AND got his mic turned off by the Academy. (He has since sort of apologized for cursing on stage.) Photo of Undefeated winners is above, fyi.
Should we laugh? Cry? Protest? What will it take for Hollywood to get a clue? That said, I enjoyed Crystal’s slams of the Republican candidates and other political digs that were spot-on such as:
One of the biggest stories of the year has to be the success of “The Artist.” Such an unlikely Oscar contender. No big stars, no color, no dialogue and looks like it’s a hundred years old. It’s like watching this year’s Republican primary.
and in introducing Christian Bale:
“a dark knight, an American psycho, a charismatic crackhead: you’ll choose one on Super Tuesday!”
Iran has an entry in the foreign language film category. “A Separation” deals with issues like divorce, child custody, domestic violence and manslaughter. Iranian President Ahmadinejad described it as “the best comedy of the year.”
There’s Meryl Streep, who celebrates her record 17th nomination for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady.” It’s funny, when she was offered the role of the toughest skirt in 1980’s Britain, she thought she was being asked to play Boy George.
Ding! Shows we’re not all living back in the 19th or 20th centuries here in the U.S. Anyway, that’s my take. I was waiting for some black folks in the audience to shake their heads with disapproval but apparently that was only happening at home on the couch and on tha Twitter. What did you think of the Oscars (aside from Sacha Baron Cohen’s urn and JLo’s nip slip?
This post was originally published by Jack & Jill Politics.
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill