George Clooney — that fine purveyor of protest, king of contemporary social criticism, and magistrate of magical muster, has come to the defense of the diverse. We all know the story: the Academy Awards, and just about any award show not situated on the BET Network, have a habit of marginalizing or outright ignoring non-white talent. For the second year in a row, the Oscars have found it A-OK to shun non-caucasians not named Iñárritu. But, should we really expect more from an industry where a white actor in blackface has an easier time getting nominated — looking at you Robert Downey, Jr. — than an actual black actor?
Clooney has some thoughts about this:
…And all of a sudden, you feel like we’re moving in the wrong direction. There were nominations left off the table. There were four films this year: “Creed” could have gotten nominations; “Concussion” could have gotten Will Smith a nomination; Idris Elba could have been nominated for “Beasts of No Nation;” and “Straight Outta Compton” could have been nominated. And certainly last year, with “Selma” director Ava DuVernay — I think that it’s just ridiculous not to nominate her.
Clooney raises a good point, but it’s nothing that hasn’t been said in the aftermath of the Academy’s choices for Oscar contention this year. Where he gets a gold star is in this next comment:
“For Hispanics, it’s even worse. We need to get better at this. We used to be better at it.”
And there it is, folks: truth. While those of Latino descent make up a large swath of the American population, you only need six fingers to count the Latino actors who have won Oscars for acting. A Mexican actress (Salma Hayek) didn’t even get nominated until 2002! And screw awards; jobs — just jobs we’re talking here — in Hollywood are so scarce for Latinos that the ones who do make it are often the ones who’ve changed their names and taken a lot of roles that deemphasize their heritage, presumably out of fear they’ll be struck down with a thunderclap otherwise. (See: Oscar Issac, Martin Sheen.)
Let’s do a quiz. How many Latino Jedi can you name from the Star Wars films? None? At least there was an awesome African-American Jedi with a unique, purple Lightsaber. Hell, you’re lucky if you even get to see animated characters with a Latino heritage, and they don’t even come with agents, a trailer, or contractual demands.
So, is it the Academy’s fault that Hispanics don’t get more credit in their ceremonies?
Nope. You actually have to be in movies to get nominated.