Opinion: Oscars showcase lack of diversity

Due to lack of advertising and drastically lower viewership during this years Oscar Awards, many consider it to be a fail.


Due to lack of advertising and drastically lower viewership during this year’s Oscar Awards, many consider it to be a fail.

Megan Lin, Editor-in-chief

With the 2017 Oscars airing on Sunday, people are excited to see their favorite actors, actresses, and films be awarded for their virtue. Many also look forward to host Jimmy Kimmel and the comedian’s opening monologue and are eager to compare him to his predecessors.

However, in terms of predecessors, many may not remember the uproar last year’s Academy Awards caused in the Asian-American community when Chris Rock paraded three Asian children onstage and perpetuated stereotypes about them on national television. Ironically, Rock rewrote his monologue to address the lack of people of color in any nominated categories only to include a crude Asian joke.

The Academy has consistently displayed Hollywood’s hypocrisy regarding diversity in the film industry. Just as an example, there are no Asian lead roles in movies being released in 2017, despite there being a number of Asian-inspired movies. Historically, this has been the trend in Hollywood.

Some current examples include The Great Wall and Ghost in the Shell, starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson respectively. Emma Stone starred as Allison Ng, a quarter-Chinese, quarter-Native Hawaiian pilot in “Aloha” two years ago. The fact that these Asian-based movies have white leads doesn’t bother many people, because some people can’t stand watching a movie without their “white savior” narrative.

If you don’t believe me when I say that this is the perfect example of whitewashing, imagine Daniel Dae Kim on the poster of Mission Impossible instead of Tom Cruise. Be honest, you probably laughed out of disbelief.

And it’s not just a race problem with white actors being cast as ethnic characters. Most of the time, disabled characters in movies are portrayed by able-bodied actors and actresses.

I have nothing against any of the white actors or actresses that grace the movie posters of today. What I do have something against is this culture in the popular industry where the most influential figures in the film industry make elaborate speeches and stress the importance of diversity only to turn right around on their words.

Meryl Streep, in all her glory, is guilty of this. At the Golden Globes, she was received by an overwhelming applause in her criticism of president-elect Donald Trump in a moving acceptance speech of the Cecil B. Demille Award.

“Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners and if we kick them all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts,” Streep said.

However, in this statement, she inadvertently ignores the significance of the impact of mixed martial arts in Hollywood’s history and the many legacies left behind by some of it’s most important patrons like Bruce Lee, Jet Li, Jackie Chan, among others. Were it not for Lee’s work in the industry, many Asian actors like Li or Chan would not be as successful as they are today.

So to call MMA, “not the arts” is quite a setback from Streep’s otherwise insightful and honest speech because it is the arts. She’s correct to imply that arts are critical for culture, but her remark about martial arts completely ignores Hollywood’s Asian history and discredits her narrative about inclusiveness.

And it’s not that there is no awareness about this issue and there are signs that things might be changing in Hollywood for Asian actors and actresses. “Aloha’”s director Cameron Crowe apologized for the casting mistake and Donnie Yen was a hit in “Rogue One.” Yen’s warm reception for his role is ground-breaking, as he was praised for his depiction of a male friendship and not for his martial arts.

Hollywood has tremendous power over American culture through the makings of hit movies that today’s youth spend their days watching with friends and family. They’re part of the reason why people have come to accept this white savior complex as a norm. If their portrayal of minority characters changes, this attitude might change as well.

But as film award season approaches, there’s little room for hope that this year’s Oscars will be any different from the years past, despite widespread outrage over the lack of diversity in the nominees. Even though this year’s Academy Awards broke past records regarding nonwhite nominees, it’s up to the elite of the film industry to point out, with unforgiving blatancy, the hypocrisy they are surrounded with. Only then can change begin to happen in more larger intervals to include, represent, and celebrate the true diversity of this nation’s people.