In front of the screen, Hollywood seems progressive, with its sexy TV shows and growing number of strong female leads. But if you truly dissect what your eyes are consuming, you’d find that things are a bit more problematic. Hollywood is years behind cultural standards in terms of social progression. And it’s even worse behind the screen, with many of the leadership roles, both on set and off, still predominantly filled by white men.
I’m not normally one to take a public stance on these issues. I usually don’t speak my mind in this way because I feel that I often don’t have the right perspective to do so – I do not face the same discriminations that others do, and therefore don’t feel that it’s right that I assert my own opinions about struggles I know nothing about.
But now I feel I must say – and do – something. Even something as minuscule as not bothering to watch The Oscars this weekend. Why, when I’m not some Hollywood celebrity, when my viewership pretty much holds no weight? Because I do not wish to support a system that is, at its core, broken and refuses to acknowledge that it is so.
This extends beyond issues of racism, and my investment in the issue extends beyond that of the outspoken bystander. Though women get their fair half of Academy Award categories, sexism is rampant in Hollywood, and the issue of race in The Oscars points to an even more problematic Hollywood: one that still lives in social standards dripping with old school world views. While my single viewership might not count for anything, I do not wish to support a system that turns a blind eye to the fact that, in the year 2016, our stories of the world around us still abide by false depictions of white-washed life, of trope-filled minorities and female characters whose personalities are more determined by curves and surrounding men than by legitimate challenges and relatable struggles.
I’ve been lucky. My personal experience working in this industry has only brought me within solar rotation of some of the horribly sexist and/or racist people making their marks in Hollywood. I’ve worked for the good eggs, the rare nice guys you sometimes hear about in faint outlier stories. But I’ve heard horrific things, shocking things from friends – women who couldn’t get hired as set PAs because they weren’t “strong enough,” whose bosses made increasingly sexual remarks about their actions, or clothing, until finally, passes were made, etc. And these stories don’t even scrape the tip of the ice berg when you open the discussion to issues of race, sexuality, diversity, and inclusion behind the screen. Even when a show is led by a promisingly diverse cast, the writer’s room and production crew may not be so.
So my boycotting The Oscars is only a small step in raising my voice against a predominantly straight-white-male institution. Hollywood is first and foremost a financial pursuit and business endeavor, a creative machine second. I’m not sure if it will ever treat issues of race and minority as more than trendy subject matters unless more people – those with power, and consumers, like myself – step up and demand change. We need to get to a point where the Reys and the Finns are not some novel Disney dream, but a natural result of good writing and enthusiastic casting. We need to get to a point where the Academy hires Chris Rock to host The Oscars because he’s an awesome, funny guy, and not questionably because The Oscars would otherwise be “Too White”. We need to get to a point where LGBTQ creatives are equally represented in all fields. We need to get to a place where it’s natural and easy to staff a writers room with more than one or two people of color and/or women.
The change won’t come while we continue to quietly consume – and subsequently support – a broken Hollywood. We need to speak out. We need to demand change. We need to put actions to our words to make it happen.
Check out this awesome NYTimes article about really cool people discussing their own experiences with broken Hollywood.