Hollywood has long been criticized for whitewashing its productions. Whether it be casting a white actor as a person of color (e.g. Mickey Rooney in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” or the more recent casting of Scarlett Johansson in “Ghost in the Shell”) or simply casting white actors to play characters with no defined race, as if “white” was the assumed default, whitewashing is so common that many filmgoers never even question it.
The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite blew up Twitter leading up to the 88th Academy Awards last year, because for the second year in a row, all 20 actors nominated for lead and supporting roles were white. In the award’s history, there have only been 14 black actors, five Latino actors, and three Asian actors to win Oscars.
Many who would otherwise have been in attendance boycotted the Oscars to protest the lack of minority representation.
Other Hollywood award shows aren’t much different, but the 74th Golden Globes, hosted on Jan. 8, was hopeful.
In 2014, 141 billion letters were sent. But this year, one important letter was penned without a stamp. When Golden Globes guests opened their programs, they found a heartfelt letter written by none other than Barack Obama.
The president thanked this year’s nominees as well as others for highlighting the stories of a diverse people.
The letter reads:
“Michelle and I send greetings to all those attending the 74th annual Golden Globe Awards.
Film and television have captured our understanding of society. Using the big and small screens to bring diverse tales to life, actors and actresses and creative visionaries behind the scenes have inspired us to find deeper meaning in our shared humanity.
Tonight’s nominees have devoted their talents to helping us celebrate our triumphs and illustrate our flaws. By enabling us to see ourselves in each other and creating a space for the many narratives that reflect our rich and collective history, they remind us of the power and ideas and the ways they can shape our world for the better.
As you gather to recognize this year’s nominees, I wish you all the best for a memorable evening.”
The letter was an appropriate preface to the evening, where diversity triumphed.
“Moonlight,” the coming-of-age story about gay, black youth in Miami won the award for Best Picture, Drama; Viola Davis won the award for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture (“Fences”); “Atlanta” took the award for Best TV Series, Comedy or Musical; and Tracee Ellis Ross, of “Black-ish,” took the award for Best Actress in a TV Series, Comedy or Musical. Ross proceeded to dedicate her award to Hollywood’s underrepresented.
“This is for all the women, women of color and colorful people, whose stories, ideas, thoughts are not always considered worthy and valid and important,” said Ross. “But I want you to know: I see you. We see you.”
Despite huge wins for Hollywood’s black community, other racial groups walked away empty-handed.
As the Oscars become closer, more and more pressure will be placed on the Academy for efforts of inclusion.