Viola Davis Says Diversity Isn't A "Trending Topic," Hitting The Nail On The Head
Can it please become a universal rule that when Viola Davis speaks, everybody listens? Last year, Davis became the first black woman to win an Emmy for Lead Actress in a Drama for her role on How To Get Away With Murder and gave an acceptance speech that likely will be quoted for years to come. The most poignant line was about how you can't win awards for roles that do not exist. This is still just as relevant, given all the talk about the Oscars and the lack of diversity among nominees. This came up in conversation at Saturday's SAG Awards. Backstage at the show, Davis talked to People about how although she's enjoying the conversation that's happening right now, there's an important message to keep in mind. She said,
Diversity is not a trending topic. It's just not.
There are so many reasons this quote hits the nail on the head. To start out, #OscarsSoWhite is quite literally is a trending topic. As a hashtag on Twitter, it's popular at the moment, but that momentum shouldn't die down as soon as award season ends. Providing more roles and recognition for people of color is something that needs to be addressed year round to ensure that change really does happen. It's not just a buzzword, but instead, a real issue that affects tons of people — not just in Hollywood, but across the country in all industries.
The fact that the Academy plans to double its membership of women and minorities by the year 2020 is a step in the right direction, but it's not the be-all and end-all to the entire issue. As director Ava DuVernay perfectly put it, it's more about inclusion than diversity itself. DuVernay said, "I feel [diversity] is a medicinal word that has no emotional resonance, and this is a really emotional issue. It’s emotional for artists who are women and people of color to have less value placed on our worldview." This ties in perfectly with Davis' sentiments.
In case you thought that the "trending topic" comment was the only piece of wisdom Davis dropped at Saturday's show, nope — her comments only continued getting better. She told People,
I see myself as an actor. No matter what is going on in the business, I will find a way to practice my art. And all of the actors of color that I know don't place any limitations on themselves either. So regardless of what is going on with the Academy, regardless of what is going on in Hollywood, they will find a way to be excellent. We always have and we always will.
Yes, yes, yes! Essentially she's saying that these limitations aren't holding her back from being the best actor she can be, and even if the change in Hollywood takes time, she's not going anywhere anytime soon. She'll keep persevering and putting her talents to good use — as she should.