Why Halle have to let a white man pop her to get a Oscar? Why Denzel have to be crooked before he took it?
These are the words from a popular rap song entitled "Why?" performed by Jadakiss, asking the question why do Blacks have to play the most demeaning roles in order to be recognized by the Academy Awards. The song raised important questions that still resonate among some Blacks in regards to the stereotypical nature of Hollywood, yet in today's so-called Colorblind Society, this is propagated as "haterism" or "jealous", which people throw aside quickly, seeing that Blacks seem to have made progress in America.
Now the latest PBG(Pretty Black Girl) Lupita Nyong'o is all the rave among Hollywood and social media, and with the "achievement" of her Academy Award for her role as a slave and constant rape victim named Patsey in the Academy Award winning film "12 Years A Slave", her brand is now brighter than ever before. I can't seem to go a day or even an hour without checking my FB page and seeing all of the posts and images of how beautiful she is, look at her, you go girl comments from Black women, pictures of her walking alongside White actors and actresses up and down Hollywood, which gives Black women the feeling of accomplishments, progress and intergration, and the idea of not having to deny your Blackness in order to accomplish goals in America.
But is that what we're really seeing here, especially when we take a look at the latest winners and nominees in the last few years, or are we seeing a disturbing pattern that very few are willing to recognize?
This gentlemen here seems to think otherwise. I captured this tweet from one of my FB friends, which started a brief discussion( at least on her post), but others commented on a another post with the usual claims of "steady bitchin" and probably threw in some hater quotes in there too. But let's take a close look at what this gentleman is alleging and let's see if there is some merit to his post.
Let's start with Hattie McDaniel's role in the 1939 movie Gone With The Wind, a docile maid who although she scolded some of the characters, did not countermand or go against the mistress, Scarlett O' Hara. The movie doesn't show anything about Tara's life outside of being a plantation maid. The movie also casts Butterfly McQueen as a maid, a role which she herself says she didn't like because it was demeaning, especially with the stereotypical catchphrase "I don't know nothin' bout birthin babies." Hattie tried to take the mammy schtick out on the road after the GWTW success, but Blacks weren't having it. On this discussion on FB, one African American woman replied that she would rather win an award as a maid than to play a Black whore around a bunch of Black men. I quickly replied to her that in essence there is no difference between the two, seeing that the slavemaster would sleep with his maids if he wished, and gave her the example of the double-standard of Josephine Baker, and recollected all of the accolades she was given for the strip tease dances she would perform onstage while White men in safari suits stood back and let her do her thing, yet hip hop video queens are chided and ridiculed for doing the same thing around Black men. I still ask what is the difference? I surely don't see any. The illusion of inclusion truly clouds many minds.
We all know Halle Berry's win for her role in the 2001 movie Monster's Ball, where she plays a woman who sleeps with one of her husband's executioners, played by Billy Bob Thornton. We've all seen in some fashion the teary-eyed, overly emotional acceptance speech she gave at the Academy Awards. One has to ask oneself, what did she do that was so deserving of a Best Actress Award in a movie about a Black woman sleeping with a Southern hick officer who help executes her Black husband? I mean really? Halle, who has also received criticism from the Black community for "abandoning Black men" after she claimed in an Ebony article that she would never again marry, only to be found engaged to two different Europeans, is quite a study in exploitation and stereotypes of the Black woman. All one has to do is factor in this movie, as well the movie Swordfish, which has her stripping down to her undies in front of two White men, which she claims in an interview that she felt that her participation in that movie took Black women's sexuality to a direction where it had never been before...Are you freakin' kidding me? Read the interview right here. http://cinema.com/articles/471/swordfish-interview-with-halle-berry.phtml
Halle also gets the dubious distinction, in my opinion, of portraying the skankiest Catwoman character ever... I'm sorry, but I didn't see Anne Hathaway play Catwoman that way, and her outfit definitely was not as trashy either...call me a hater if you wish.
Let's move on to Mo'Nique and her Academy Award winning role as an abusive ghetto mother in the movie Precious, which was also nominated for Best Picture in 2010 as well. Again I ask, what is so significant and complex about playing an abusive, single Black ghetto drama queen that Mo'Nique is given an award? Isn't this the same woman who a few years earlier played a stereotypical, man-chasing, self-absorbed ignorant mother on the series The Parkers? In 2009 it was alleged that she owned the rights to Hattie McDaniels' story. Somehow she too thinks that portraying slaves and demeaning roles and winning an award for it is an accomplishment...Go figure. The illusion of inclusion truly runs deep.
Then there's Denzel Washington, Mr. Classy himself, who was nominated in his stellar role in Malcolm X(1992), a movie produced by Spike Lee, but missed out somehow to Al Pacino. Now back in the day I would've blown a gasket for that film not receiving an award, but then again, I didn't know back then what I know now, especially after Denzel wins an award for portraying a demented, crooked cop on the take in the movie Training Day(2001). If you're not seeing a pattern here, something's wrong with you.
But let's go further...
Remember that movie Hustle and Flow, a 2005 movie starring Terrence Howard? He received a nomination for playing a pimp/hustler turned rapper named DJay. Now I want to say something before I go further here. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, and did not mind the songs in the film, created by a rap group Three 6 Mafia, because I understood the subject matter and the songs Whoop That Trick and It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp, which the latter won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. In the context of the movie, I have no problem. But taken away from the movie, it could come across as something different, so my question is why is that song nominated and chosen as Best Original Song? Given the hypermasculine roles given to Black men in films and music, and also seeing movies like Coonskin and Fritz The Cat and the HBO series The Wire which were passed off as social commentary depicting Blacks in some of the most demeaning fashions, one cannot help but sense something fishy here. I mean if a Black organization were to give it accolades because it depicted a real life story of marginalized Black people, cool....But this song is selected by people who probably never ventured into inner cities unless they've experienced trying to pick up prostitutes and drugs in these areas. Especially if the allegations are true, that anywhere between 60-75% of rap audiences are White Males, especially between the ages of 18-34. It should make you think something fishy is going on here.
Then there's Ray(2004), where actor Jamie Foxx won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of the late musician Ray Charles. While Ray was commended for overcoming his drug problems, his life was certainly not the one you would want to show as a stand up human being, especially with his extramarital affairs. And what is one of the main complaints that has been typecasted of Black men? The inability to commit, irresponsibility, being disrespectful of women, cheating on their wives. One would ask the question if the person was a rapper, would he garner the same respect? Some people were even under the impression that all of the accolades were heaped upon him due to his illness, including the Grammy award given for his last album before his death.
BUT WAIT...We have The Last King of Scotland (2006), a British film based on a fictional novel, starring Forest Whitaker, who won the Oscar for playing Idi Amin, a Ugandan dictator. This film, like 12 Years A Slave, was produced by Fox Searchlight, which castes a dubious distinction here as well. So now we have Africans portraying roles of African American slaves and wenches, and African Americans portraying crazed African dictators...All from the same production company, and winning Academy Awards for their roles, and still nobody sees anything wrong with this. Truly the illusion of inclusion runs deep.
What makes LKOS so bad is that it's mixed with fiction and actual events, but in an image based society, nobody reads or reads with comprehension. They watch movies and what does this movie show? White guy goes to Africa, gets laid by the native women, in typical African women fashion, 'cause you know they're nymphos, right? Gets next to crazed dictator, finds out he's not all he's cracked up to be, sleeps with dictator's wife, 'cause you know African women are nymphos, right? Finds out dictator slices up wife, dude gets tortured by dictator, manages to escape with his life, the end. And you wonder why I'm not eager to even watch 12 Years A Slave. So now people can get away with mixing true events and fiction, and it makes a splash at the movies, and African American actors don't see anything wrong with this.
Then there's Will Smith in The Pursuit Of Happyness....I don't even want to go there with that one, because the title of the film tells you what's missing here. What happened to the right to live, which also means the right to have access to a decent quality of life, which is not what this country lives up to? This "personal achievement" actually came at the cost of his wife, who left him after not being able to live in squalor, which didn't make her come out of this movie on a good note either.
So when we get to this years' winners 12 Years A Slave and Lupita Nyong'o, one should not be amazed at the growing amount of discontent among some Blacks who have seen enough slave movies and movies that put Blacks in a marginalized position as incompetent, criminal, and inferior...It also castes a bad reflection of living in an image based society, where as Dr. Gail Dines puts it, most people are image illiterate, and do not understand the subliminal messages laid out by Hollywood and corporations. I mean instead of ooooing and aaahing over Lupita, why isn't anyone really looking at the theme behind the movie, which basically means no matter how you may claim yourself as free, a Black person is not truly free in this country? And why could they not make a movie about the Dred Scott case? Is it because they can't concentrate on Black women getting raped in a film like that? Now do a movie about Dred Scott, and I might see it, unless Fox Searchlight produces it....and by the way let's not forget the other nominee Burkhad Abdi, the Somali actor who was nominated for his role as a PIRATE in Captain Phillips. Just looks like Black people really are inferior from Hollywoods' standpoint.
All in all, these awards don't mean anything to me anymore.They're just props and PR gadgets if you ask me.
Oscar really has a way with B-O-L-O-G-N-A. www.qartworks.com
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