#OscarsSoWhite Sketch Puts Black Actors In White Films To Highlight A Big Hollywood Issue
On Sunday night, Chris Rock devoted as much time to blasting the lack of diversity in Hollywood and in the Oscar nominees as he did to, you know, actually hosting the Oscars. One of the most awesome examples of that was the #OscarsSoWhite parody sketch, in which Rock played a montage of some of the Best Picture nominees, as re-imagined if there had actually been a black actor prominently featured in them. That meant putting Whoopi Goldberg in Joy, Leslie Jones as the bear in The Revenant , Tracy Morgan in The Danish Girl, and himself in The Martian. While these additions changed the films in extraordinary — and extraordinarily hilarious ways — the overall effect was something a little more powerful.
Because, as Rock pointed out before the montage began to play, it's very difficult for black actors to get nominated for awards and downright impossible for them to get nominated if they don't have the role at all. By putting these black actors in these Oscar nominated films, Rock didn't just give us a hilarious look at an alternate universe in which they would have gotten these roles and changed the game. What he did was show us how easy it would have been for these roles to be cast with a black actor instead of a white one.
The absurd ways in which Whoopi Goldberg pushing a mop behind Jennifer Lawrence, or in which Chris Rock is a "black astronaut" left abandoned in space so as not to waste "white dollars," changed the movie is not what would have happened in reality. In reality, giving black actors these opportunities would have changed nothing — except to result in a more inclusive list of nominees in 2016. It was a missed opportunity that Rock's sketch highlighted so perfectly, and so subtly that the audience might have missed it while bursting into laughter.
So, while it's fun to laugh, we must also not forget to think. Rock's jokes are hilarious, but they are also very thoughtful, very incisive, and serve a larger point in a way that only Rock could pull off. This sketch was no different. The fact that all of the Best Picture nominees feature white actors in the main cast isn't something that couldn't be helped, isn't something that happened on accident, and isn't something that should be ignored this year just because the ceremony is already here. This is a pervasive issue that would be very easily fixed by simply giving a black actor the same opportunities that white actors get for films like this year after year. Like Chris Rock with this sketch, they'd likely nail it.