Spike Lee Oscars boycott

Out of all the films and artists that were snubbed for Academy Awards nominations last week, one area of oversight stood out for being particularly egregious: the lack of nods for people of color. Of all the major nominees, only one person, The Revenant director Alejandro González Iñárritu, was not white. And for the second year in a row, the 20 acting nominees didn’t include a single person of color.

Naturally, the internet got outraged and rightfully so – it’s not like this year was lacking in tremendous work from performers of all ethnic backgrounds. The #OscarsSoWhite hashtag became a thing again and think pieces from both sides of this controversy began to spring up across the internet. And now, prepare for things to get even more heated: director Spike Lee, who was just awarded an honorary Oscar in November, is boycotting this year’s ceremony.

As Lee is wont to do, the Chi-Raq director revealed that he won’t be attending this year’s Academy Awards in the most dramatic fashion imaginable: an Instagram post featuring an image of Martin Luther King Jr., posted on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, complete with a lengthy, passionate statement. After thanking and apologizing to Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaac, ceremony producer Reggie Hudlin, and host Chris Rock, Lee made his feelings on this matter know. The punctuation is his:

How Is It Possible For The 2nd Consecutive Year All 20 Contenders Under The Actor Category Are White? And Let’s Not Even Get Into The Other Branches. 40 White Actors In 2 Years And No Flava At All. We Can’t Act?! WTF!! It’s No Coincidence I’m Writing This As We Celebrate The 30th Anniversary Of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s Birthday. Dr. King Said “There Comes A Time When One Must Take A Position That Is Neither Safe, Nor Politic, Nor Popular But He Must Take It Because Conscience Tells Him It’s Right”. For Too Many Years When The Oscars Nominations Are Revealed, My Office Phone Rings Off The Hook With The Media Asking Me My Opinion About The Lack Of African-Americans And This Year Was No Different. For Once, (Maybe) I Would Like The Media To Ask All The White Nominees And Studio Heads How They Feel About Another All White Ballot.

Here is his complete post:

#OscarsSoWhite… Again. I Would Like To Thank President Cheryl Boone Isaacs And The Board Of Governors Of The Academy Of Motion Pictures Arts And Sciences For Awarding Me an Honorary Oscar This Past November. I Am Most Appreciative. However My Wife, Mrs. Tonya Lewis Lee And I Will Not Be Attending The Oscar Ceremony This Coming February. We Cannot Support It And Mean No Disrespect To My Friends, Host Chris Rock and Producer Reggie Hudlin, President Isaacs And The Academy. But, How Is It Possible For The 2nd Consecutive Year All 20 Contenders Under The Actor Category Are White? And Let’s Not Even Get Into The Other Branches. 40 White Actors In 2 Years And No Flava At All. We Can’t Act?! WTF!! It’s No Coincidence I’m Writing This As We Celebrate The 30th Anniversary Of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s Birthday. Dr. King Said “There Comes A Time When One Must Take A Position That Is Neither Safe, Nor Politic, Nor Popular But He Must Take It Because Conscience Tells Him It’s Right”. For Too Many Years When The Oscars Nominations Are Revealed, My Office Phone Rings Off The Hook With The Media Asking Me My Opinion About The Lack Of African-Americans And This Year Was No Different. For Once, (Maybe) I Would Like The Media To Ask All The White Nominees And Studio Heads How They Feel About Another All White Ballot. If Someone Has Addressed This And I Missed It Then I Stand Mistaken. As I See It, The Academy Awards Is Not Where The “Real” Battle Is. It’s In The Executive Office Of The Hollywood Studios And TV And Cable Networks. This Is Where The Gate Keepers Decide What Gets Made And What Gets Jettisoned To “Turnaround” Or Scrap Heap. This Is What’s Important. The Gate Keepers. Those With “The Green Light” Vote. As The Great Actor Leslie Odom Jr. Sings And Dances In The Game Changing Broadway Musical HAMILTON, “I WANNA BE IN THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS”. People, The Truth Is We Ain’t In Those Rooms And Until Minorities Are, The Oscar Nominees Will Remain Lilly White. (Cont’d)

A photo posted by Spike Lee (@officialspikelee) on

Lee’s Chi-Raq was snubbed at the Oscars entirely, but this controversy extends beyond Lee’s divisive film. Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful Eight), Benicio del Toro (Sicario), Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation), Will Smith (Concussion), Michael B. Jordan (Creed), and Ryan Coogler (Creed‘s director) were all snubbed, despite many of them receiving acclaim and winning a variety of other awards. In some cases, like Sylvester Stallone being nominated for Creed and Straight Outta Compton being nominated for Best Original Screenplay, white cast and crew were given nods for films that star and were directed by people of color. It’s hard to imagine this being intentional on the part of every Academy voter, but it does speak to a larger issue. The Academy isn’t racist, but it is definitely oblivious.

Lee isn’t the only noteworthy individual talking about boycotting the Academy Awards. Jada Pinkett Smith (who is truly Oscar-worthy in Magic Mike XXL) spoke out on Twitter:

In other words, Chris Rock is going to have more material than he knows what to do with on Oscars night. Hopefully, this controversy will open the door to further discussion. After all, as Lee says in his Instagram post, this problem isn’t unique to the Oscars – it begins in the film industry itself.

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