The Destructive, Useful, Unethical Presumption of Bigotry, Part 2: The Oscar “Snub”

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For the second time in nearly two decades, and for the first time since 1998, the Oscars will be awarded to only white acting nominees. This, then, if you listen to the caterwauling race-baiters, is because Hollywood is racist. The Academy’s voters just hid it well since 1998, that’s all. Does that make any sense to you?

There are few more infuriating and transparently illogical examples of an unfair slapping down of the race card than looking for bigotry in the notoriously arbitrary, bias-soaked, essentially meaningless choices for “best” in the various Academy Award movie-making categories. Yet the race card sharks were up to the task.  Naturally, the authority on the subject was Al Sharpton, he whose own performance quality on his MSNBC TV show is so amateurish that it would be shut out in any community theater awards.

“In the time of Staten Island and Ferguson, to have one of the most shutout Oscar nights in recent memory is something that is incongruous,” Sharpton told The Daily News. Wait, what??? Incongruous is the assertion that the nominations for film-making excellence should be influenced in any way by how many blacks are killed resisting arrest. Anyone who finds that to be a logical argument for why more black actors should have been nominated for Oscars is useless to any rational discussion of the issue. I want a show of hands. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: “12 Years A Slave” Plays The Racial Guilt Card On Oscar Voters

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“It’s time.”

This is the  tag line in the post-Oscar nomination ads being prominently run in New York and California for  “12 Years A Slave,” a strong Academy Award contender (nine nominations, including best film).

Although there is room for disagreement, and the ad has the virtue of all clever advertising that it conveys different messages to different markets—Haven’t seen the film yet? “It’s time!”  Desperate to see the best movie you saw in 2013 finally get its due? “It’s time!”  When will the question of whether the most honored film of the last 12 months will win the biggest honor of them all be answered? “It’s time!”…or almost time, as the Oscar ceremonies are coming up on March 2—the consensus is that “It’s time” is mainly aimed at Oscar voters, and the message it conveys is, as Slate puts it, “it’s time for a movie about slavery, and with a significantly black cast and crew, to be recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.” Film critic Phil Hammond puts it slightly differently:

“The ad not only can be interpreted as shining a light on a very dark period in American history, it also shines a light on the Academy’s fairly dismal record of awarding its top honor to any movie about the black experience. In fact there has been only one Best Picture winner in the 85 years the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been handing out Oscars that even remotely qualifies in this regard. In 1968, In The Heat Of The Night, a murder mystery set against the racial divide in a small Southern town, won Best Picture and four other Oscars just a few days after the assassination of Martin Luther King (the ceremony was even postponed two days out of respect). The votes were in before the King assassination, but it seemed then that “It’s Time” would have been an appropriate way to describe that victory. However, outside of lead actor Sidney Poitier — who also co-starred in another racially themed Best Pic nominee that year, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner —  this movie  featured a largely white cast, white producer, screenwriter and director (Norman Jewison).”

If so many in the industry are interpreting the ad this way, it is fair to assume that this was at least one of the ad’s objectives, and on the assumption that it was an objective, your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz today is this:

“Is appealing to Oscar voters on this basis fair and ethical?”

I can see strong arguments for each position. Continue reading