Hollywood’s Condescension On Race, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 27 2012 @ 11:04am


A reader cringed at the roundtable discussion:

How awful for Viola Davis. She's an actress in Hollywood who just got nominated for an Oscar. She acts for a living. She probably has a nice big house and a nice expensive car, all from acting. She's "made it." 

As for "[black actresses] are rarely cast as ideals of beauty or objects of desire. On the odd occasion that they are, only a certain look will do." Uh, yeah, no shit. That goes for every white actress as well. Or have you not heard of the plight of the actress that's always cast as the best friend and never the lead? Why would that be? Maybe cause they don't have the right look.

Bottom line: if you're able to support yourself by living out your dreams, and get nominated for Oscars to boot, and go to hot parties and get your ass kissed by fans and other actors and even journalists, no one should give a crap about your "plight."


"Halle Berry is having a hard time." ????

Black culture actually has an incredibly disproportionate influence and representation within American pop culture as a whole. R&B and hiphop dominate popular music. Urban (code for black) culture is ubiquitous and influences how people dress, act, and speak – across most demographic lines. As far as Hollywood goes, I'm sure that immensely talented people are always overlooked and Davis' contention that it's political frankly doesn't make sense.

Two words prove this: Tyler Perry. Hollywood follows the money – that's not political, or racist. Tyler Perry movies make a shitload of money, whereas high-quality black-lead drama's don't. I would in fact argue that Hollywood is one of the places where we see market forces most directly!

Another drops some data:

The notion that African Americans are underrepresented in television and movies is one of the enduring myths of Hollywood. The Screen Actors Guild keeps casting data that measures diversity in casting. For instance, in 2008 (the last year SAG published the full data set), African Americans represented 13.3% of all TV and film roles cast under SAG contacts.  The year before they represented 14.8%.  (African Americans comprise 12.6% of the population.)  If you examine the data, you'll see the story is quite different for Latinos, seniors, people with disabilities – they're all underrepresented on the big and small screen.

Now admittedly, the data doesn't tell you anything about the quality of the roles, but the notion that African Americans only play maids and drug dealers is based on notions that longer withstand even casual scrutiny.  (If anyone has a right to complain about being typecast as baddies, it's white Englishmen over 40.)  

Finally, I think the fact that Viola Davis has had a hard time finding roles has more to do with being a 46-year-old female than is does with being black.

(Photo: Actor Forest Whitaker and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Sid Ganis announce the nominations for the Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: Amy Adams for 'Doubt', Penelope Cruz for 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona', Viola Davis for 'Doubt', Taraji P. Henson for 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button' and Marisa Tomei for 'The Wrestler' at the 81st Academy Awards Nominations on January 22, 2008 in Beverly Hills, California. By Kevin Winter/Getty Images. Cruz won the award. The Wiki page for African-Americans nominated for Oscars here.)