I’d like to start with 3 disclaimers. 1) This will be a wildly unpopular rant. 2) I expect to catch more hell about this than I did about religion. 3) My editor vehemently disagrees with certain points I am going to make, so this has not been edited because I didn’t show it to her – please forgive any wordiness.
I want to try to get you to see the Oscars the way I see them. I already know I will fail, so this is my Don Quixote moment. I sat through the play-by-play on Facebook last night and wanted to come through the screen and whoop a few people. Not everyone – we all have a right to our opinion and I actually had some good debates with a few folks that went on through today. I only spend time talking to rational people. Nevertheless, some other folks tried my patience. Let’s get some things clear:
Monique is not a dirty bitch. Halle Berry is not a floozy, whore, trick-ass bitch or stank-ho. Denzel is not a sell-out. Will Smith and Morgan Freeman are not an Uncle Toms. I wish Black people wouldn’t talk about other Black people like this. It destroys us all. This is the ugliness I allude to in my title.
Many people were belittling Monique because they didn’t want to see her win an Oscar for portraying a villainous mother with no redeeming qualities. And then, of course, they started in with comparisons to Halle Berry from 9 years ago. You can be upset that the roles for which they won were negative – but don’t discount the excellent work they did in those roles. In 2001, As far as I was concerned, Halle Berry couldn’t act her way out of a paper bag. And then I went to see Monster’s Ball (expecting to talk shyt about her when I walked out). She made me cry in Monster’s Ball. Maybe because I watched her performance through the entire movie and didn’t get stuck on seeing her having rough sex. Yes it was ugly. It made me uncomfortable to see it. The fact that people are STILL upset about it and think she REALLY did all those things is the mark of good acting.
Some people say that Hollywood has a trend of only allowing black people to win awards when they play a role that puts black people in a bad light. I disagree. Here is a brief history of black Oscar winners, since apparently WE don’t pay attention until it offends us:
1939 – Hattie McDaniel – Gone with the Wind (this goes here because it was 1939. We couldn’t even vote, and we were still getting lynched. She played a slave, but it was historically accurate. It was a groundbreaking win – she opened the door for all that followed.)
1958 – Sidney Poitier – Lilies of the Field
1982 – Lou Gossett Jr – An Officer and a Gentleman
1989 – Denzel Washington – Glory (He was a war hero, no matter his humble beginnings as a freed slave. Or do we consider it negative because he took a beating? He took it like a warrior.)
1990 – Whoopi Goldberg – Ghost (this was a bone they threw her for dissing her on the Color Purple. We know it; they know it. It was the best they could do to make amends.)
1996 – Cuba Gooding Jr – Jerry McGuire
2002 – Sidney Poitier – Honorary Oscar “for his extraordinary performances and unique presence on the screen and for representing the industry with dignity, style and intelligence” (making amends for overlooking him in years past).
2004 – Morgan Freeman – Million Dollar Baby
2006 – Jennifer Hudson – Dreamgirls
2001 – Denzel Washington – Training Day
2001 – Halle Berry – Monster’s Ball
2006 – Forest Whitaker – Last King of Scotland (although, this was historically accurate too.)
2009 – Monique – Precious
So where is the trend? Or are we just really mad about 2001? I didn’t hear all this when Forest Whitaker won. And here’s a few other tidbits, about the Academy giving out awards to villains. It’s not just us, folks:
2007 – Daniel Day-Lewis – There Will Be Blood (he beat a minister to death!)
2007 – Javier Bardem – No Country for Old Men (hitman/murderer)
2008 – Heath Ledger – Joker – Dark Knight
2009 – Christopher Waltz – torturing Nazi – Inglorious Basterds
Here’s something to consider: the Academy gives Oscars to people they think had to really stretch to portray the role they did. (Here’s where I piss you off.) Sidney Poitier won his first Oscar because they didn’t think that Blacks could behave with quiet dignity and respect, understated resolve and compassion. They thought we were all niggers. They were shocked that Sidney could be a real man with feelings and depth. So, by the same logic – they gave Oscars to Halle and Denzel because they couldn’t see them being the evil or broken-down folks that they portrayed. They were shocked. Why? Because “they” expect Denzel to be a good man. “They” expect Halle to be strong and beautiful. Do we? Maybe WE should check ourselves on what WE think of our own people. If you thought that it was easy for Halle to do what she did, you belittle her. If you think Denzel being a bad guy wasn’t a stretch for him, you are essentially saying that he is probably a nigger in real life. And nobody knew what to expect from Monique – she was a surprise to me too. She isn’t known as a good actress, at all. But even though her character made me sick to my stomach, she moved me in the very scene they showed as she won. I can’t even stand to sit through Precious again – ever! The same with Training Day and Monster’s Ball. I just can’t watch them. I remember that in the theater, even white people were “uncomfortable” with Denzel’s character in Training Day. They didn’t want to see him be a villain either. Which is why he did it – it was outside his comfort zone. And they rewarded him for the stretch! Did he deserve Oscars for Malcolm X? (Maybe) Cry Freedom? (Maybe Not) Hurricane? (Absolutely!!) But black people are not the only folks who get robbed. Joaquin Phoenix was ROBBED for his portrayal of the emperor in Gladiator – and that was a truly evil role. And Russell Crowe didn’t deserve an award for Gladiator, but they were making up for overlooking him on a Beautiful Mind (just like Whoopi). Don Cheadle should have won for Hotel Rwanda, but, dammit, he was up against Jamie Foxx for Ray. And I would guess that they gave it to Jamie in part because Ray Charles had just died and in part because they knew Don would be back with another awesome role.
By comparison: Sir Laurence Olivier only has ONE Oscar for best actor, but is regarded as one of the greatest actors of all time. Denzel Washington currently has more Oscars for acting than Sir Laurence Olivier (he got another for best picture, but that wasn’t acting). Anthony Hopkins – considered one of the greatest living actors – has ONE Oscar. For playing a cannibal and killer.
The Oscars isn’t a fair and balanced vote. But it also isn’t some racist conspiracy. You could make the argument that many more white people have won for positive portrayals over the years. Of course they have – they created movies, and they outnumber us in this country 10 – 1!!! We are actually disproportionately victorious over the last 20 years. And the roles weren’t any more negative than the rest of the roles that won. Hollywood likes villains. Any movie critic will tell you that.
You wanna talk negative portrayals? The media conspiracy was actually happening over on Cartoon Network at the same time, in the form of “Freaknik, the Musical”. I saw 3 minutes of it and almost lost my dinner. It was so bad, it should have been on BET. And I know I heard Snoop’s and Charlie Murphy’s voices in there. And, of course, T-Pain. THAT’S what we should be mad about. How in the hell did they get away with saying ‘nigga’ on Cartoon Network for 2 solid hours?!
Rant Volume 25 done, and I’m out (playing Oscars ‘get off the stage’ music in the background)