Hollywood and the ‘N-word’

Hollywood and the n-word go way back. They are old friends. You don’t get one without the other. That n-word is ‘No.’

Hollywood is an institution based on exclusion. At one time or another people were excluded because of race, religion, politics or most often, not having the right look. That look can be based on skin color or it can simply be that that you are seen as too fat, too skinny, have too crooked a nose, a birthmark or a bald head. It’s not an industry void of affirmation but rejection reigns.

The business model of a Hollywood studio may more closely mirror the roulette table at a Las Vegas casino than that of a well-run fortune 500 company. A blockbuster film flops while an independent one blows up. What all Hollywood films have in common however, is the influence they have on people and society, from the products they purchase to the histories they will propagate.

The Academy itself and many of the actors, directors and writers who win its awards contribute to a machine that so perfectly represents the ideals that powerful men and women have decided to disseminate. Ask yourself whether the ruling class of Hollywood, with their #Ocsarssowhite party, is much different from any other major American industry?

There are truth seekers in the industry. They use the craft of storytelling to search the depths of experience to gain insight into the human condition. This pursuit does not always lead to making successful films. Heart-wrenching performances in deeply moving films may not be nominated for awards. They may not even stay in theaters long past their premieres.

The story of Hollywood can be the story of this country working to be its best! It can be the catalyst that brings attention to the past injustices of slavery, the current woes of police/civilian relations, finding a way to address and end these plagues. It can show young girls that they can be the next Nobel Prize winning scientist or the future President of the United States of America.

So often though, Hollywood is a reflection of the valueless, I-got-mine-so-you-better-get-yours culture that haunts our society. Even with bright lights and big names, it tends to glorify the underbelly of the country—our greed and desires—sensationalizing them instead of hitting them with handcuffs.

It is up to us to be better than the checkered past of our predecessors and band together to become an industry that is more inclusive of the people and stories before us, welcoming everyone into the picture, not only those who don’t ruffle any feathers.

This is an industry built on rejection, keeping people out, keeping people down. Actors must accept this and grow a thick skin because they’re just not going to get every role they audition for. What we don’t have to accept is a racist, sexist, classist industry or country and we must each work within our abilities to recognize this and work to improve a fractured culture.

Hollywood needs to change and our country needs to change. This revolution will not come at the hands of the politicians (whose hands are tied), nor will it come from the C-suite executives towering above the streets of Manhattan or looking out at the Redwoods in Silicon Valley.

Change can begin with the artists—and there are many of them—in Hollywood, on your screens and even on a stage at your local community theater, raw talent waiting to be formed into the magic that will one day captivate audiences on the silver screen.

The Oscars may not be so white next year or the year after but they will not reflect the ideology of our great, diverse land until broad social change and greater accountability for the actions of the wealthy and powerful are instilled in the fabric of our country.

Instead of boycotting the Oscars why don’t you talk about what they represent? Ask a friend, a colleague, a stranger on the bus or yourself, “Why are the Oscars so white and do you see any difference between the business side of show business in Hollywood versus any other multibillion dollar industry?” And then, get to work on changing it, not just talking about it.

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