CALIFORNIA, United States, Thursday January 21, 2016 – With controversy over the “whitewashed” 2016 Academy Awards already approaching boiling point, the Reverend Al Sharpton has turned up the heat by adding his influential voice to calls to boycott the event.
Slamming the lack of diversity among the nominees as a “cultural insult”, Sharpton is joining the chorus calling for TV viewers to tune out of the February 28 telecast to protest a second straight year in which not a single person of colour was nominated for an acting Oscar.
“It reflects a 21st Century with 50-year-old culture. This is a total exclusion of our talent and our abilities. Hollywood has become like the Rocky Mountains: the higher up you get, the whiter it is,” the civil rights leader and close ally of President Barack Obama told the New York Daily News.
Sharpton is hoping the boycott will hit the movie industry where it hurts by scaring away advertising revenue.
“What we can’t control is the Academy, the way it is now; what we can’t control is the Hollywood studios, the way they are now; but we can control the remote dials in our homes,” he pointed out.
Calls to boycott the awards have been growing since the announcement of nominations last week.
On Martin Luther King Day, director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith, wife of Will Smith – overlooked for the film Concussion – both said that they would neither attend nor watch the ceremony, which Lee described as “lily white”.
We must stand in our power. https://t.co/jaCJf4b9rH
— Jada Pinkett Smith (@jadapsmith) January 18, 2016
Outspoken documentary filmmaker Michael Moore gave his support.
“I absolutely support what they are doing, and I will be happy to join them,” Moore, whose latest movie, ‘Where to Invade Next’, was not nominated in the documentary category, told the Wrap.
“I thought about this all day, and I don’t plan to go to the show, I don’t plan to watch it and I don’t plan to go to an Oscar party.”
Actor and activist George Clooney has also added his voice to the growing outrage over the lack of diversity.
“I think around 2004, certainly there were black nominees – like Don Cheadle, Morgan Freeman. And all of a sudden, you feel like we’re moving in the wrong direction,” he told the LA Times.
“I think that African-Americans have a real fair point that the industry isn’t representing them well enough. I think that’s absolutely true.”
Moore and Clooney are among increasing numbers of blacks and whites protesting the “blackout” in a year which features no major nominees of colour other than The Revenant director Alejandro González Iñárritu.
The widespread outrage has been a particular embarrassment to Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences president Cheryl Boone Isaacs – who is black and a vocal proponent of diversifying the industry.
British actor David Oyelowo, who was snubbed last year when the Academy ignored his portrayal of Dr Martin Luther King in the biopic Selma, slammed the film industry at a gala honouring Isaacs Monday night.
“For 20 opportunities to celebrate actors of colour and actresses of colour to be missed last year is one thing,” Oyelowo told the audience at the King Legacy Awards. “For that to happen again this year is unforgivable.”
Another top British actor Idris Elba, whose critically acclaimed supporting role in Beasts of No Nation was among the most glaring Oscar omissions this year, had his say on the subject in front of British Members of Parliament on Monday.
“We need to counter what everybody has, see the lay of the land and see who has which careers in TV,” Elba told the inquiry into the country’s entertainment industry. “Who makes TV, and who is allowed on TV and when they get the opportunity which roles do they play, on and off screen.”
— CNN (@CNN) January 20, 2016
While the majority of Hollywood has been supportive of the protest, Will Smith’s former Fresh Prince of Bel Air co-star ridiculed their campaign in a fiercely critical online video.
— LAT Entertainment (@latimesent) January 20, 2016
Janet Hubert, who played Aunt Viv, said: “I find it ironic that somebody who has made their living and has made millions and millions of dollars from the very people that you’re talking about boycotting – just because you didn’t get a nomination, just because you didn’t win? That’s not the way life works, baby.
“You ain’t Barack and Michelle Obama. And y’all need to get over yourselves. You have a huge production company that you only produce your friends and family and yourself. So you are a part of Hollywood, you are part of the system that is unfair to other actors. So get real.”