Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith Pledge to Boycott the Oscars
Spike Lee won’t be making an appearance at the Academy Awards next month, and it’s not because the Chiraq filmmaker already received an honorary Oscar at a ceremony late last year. The writer and director on Monday said he was boycotting Hollywood’s biggest night of the year because of the academy’s failure to nominate any actors of color, echoing recent statements by actor Jada Pinkett Smith and civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton.
“We cannot support it, and [I] mean no disrespect to my friends, host Chris Rock and producer Reggie Hudlin, [Academy] President [Cheryl Boone] Isaacs and the Academy,” Lee wrote in a lengthy Instagram post on Monday that commemorated Martin Luther King Jr. “But, how is it possible for the 2nd consecutive year all 20 contenders under the actor category are white?”
Lee, whose musical about gun violence on Chicago’s South Side was snubbed by the academy, was not the only star to notice that films with black actors in leading roles—Concussion, Straight Outta Compton, and Beasts of No Nation, to name a few—were largely omitted from the nominations. (The white writers of NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton garnered a nod for best original screenplay.)
Jada Pinkett Smith, whose husband, Will Smith, played Nigerian forensic pathologist Bennet Omalu in the football movie Concussion, also took to social media on MLK Day to announce that she would not be attending the Oscars, citing its lack of recognition for creative people of color. In a video posted to Facebook on Monday, the actor and musician suggested that black artists shouldn’t beg to be acknowledged by the academy but should instead invest their energy and talent in projects and systems of their own creation.
“The academy has the right to acknowledge whomever they choose, to invite whomever they choose, and now I think that it is our responsibility now to make the change,” Pinkett Smith said. “Maybe it is time that we pull back our resources and we put them back into our communities, into our programs, and we make programs for ourselves that acknowledge us in ways that we see fit—that are just as good as the so-called mainstream ones.”
The Oscar nominations drew outrage on social media when they were announced last Thursday, reigniting the Twitter hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, which was launched last year when the academy nominated all white actors for the first time since 1998. The NAACP and the National Action Network are among the civil rights groups that have issued sharp criticism and a call to action in response.
“It is time for the Academy Awards to be as relevant to the new crop of actors and movie-going audiences as they are to the new movie-viewing platforms,” the NAACP said in a statement last week, urging the academy to update its mostly white membership and calling on viewers to “question advertisers who support the awards show.”
Rev. Al Sharpton announced plans to convene a Hollywood summit in February “to bring light to those studios and others in the film industry who aren’t living up to their obligations.”
TakePart’s parent company, Participant Media, is a partner on Beasts of No Nation, as well as on Oscar-nominated films Spotlight, Bridge of Spies, and The Look of Silence.