Celebrity Reactions To #OscarsSoWhite, Visualized
Curious what Chris Rock might talk about at the Oscars? Let our matrix of wokeness be your guide
When it came to publicly commenting on the lack of diversity among this year’s Oscar nominees, celebrity reactions were all over the Hollywood map. As #OscarsSoWhite boiled into a full-on controversy, A-listers were put on the spot, and it certainly proved interesting. On one extreme, stars like Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith announced they’d boycott the awards show. Others took their well-heeled feet and stuck them directly into their mouths. Actress Charlotte Rampling, who is a Best Actress nominee for her role in 45 Years, said she thought a boycott of the ceremony was “racist to white people,” before eventually backing away from her offensive comments.
Now all eyes are on Chris Rock, who has been tapped to host this year’s Oscars. While many have speculated about the direction he will take this conversation in, he’s offered few concrete hints himself. But judging on public reaction to the onslaught of celebs with thoughts on the matter, we can get an idea of opinions he’ll surely steer clear of. Vocativ analyzed all the celebrity statements about the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, and while most people were generally supportive of more diversity within the Academy, each celebrity had a different way of showing it.
In total, there were more than 40 stars who spoke publicly about their #OscarsSoWhite feelings. Those who landed on the wrong side of history were quickly berated. Actress Julie Delpy, who downplayed the problem of racism in Hollywood compared to what women face: “It’s the hardest to be a woman. Feminists is something people hate above all. Nothing worse than being a woman in this business.” Naturally, she was forced to back off her comments after sharp criticism, and Oscar winner Michael Caine didn’t do himself any favors by announcing that “You can’t just vote for an actor because he’s black.”
Ian McKellan caught some flak for saying that gay people faced as much discrimination in the industry as black people have. Predictably Donald Trump also waded into the debate with his usual bombastic, calling it a “tough situation” and then making the not very logical statement that there was also the problem of no white actors ever got nominations at the BET awards.
Both Ice Cube and Nick Cannon and made the case that the Oscars didn’t matter–though surely many of the black actors and directors who weren’t nominated disagree. Danny DeVito was pretty blunt about the problem not being with the Oscars so much as with the entire country, saying “We are a bunch of racists.” John Krasinski took a similarly circumspect approach:
“Everyone has the right to be as upset as they are, because they should. I think that it’s something that we should pay attention to. But my feelings are, beyond the Oscars, though I think it’s a shame, I don’t know that they should be taking all the responsibility.”
For his part, Mark Ruffalo copped out after he initially mulled boycotting the ceremony. In the end, he decided to show up in support of the victims of sexual abuse featured in the movie Spotlight, for which he is nominated.
Those in the middle often made reasonable points but came off sounding a little afraid to ruffle any feathers. Several nominees–including Rooney Mara, Eddie Redmayne, and director Tom McCarthy–all gave similarly safe answers about how the academy was doing a good job addressing it and how whole controversy had started an important conversation on diversity. Other celebs like The Weeknd, George Clooney, and Lena Dunham also took similarly tame stances. Makes you think they all followed the same playbook on how to be sympathetic without offending anyone. Actor Laurence Fishburne told Stephen Colbert, “It’s gotten better. We still have a lot of work to do, but it’s gotten better,” despite no notable improvement to the Oscars’ diversity in recent years.
President Barack Obama epitomized a strong yet even-tempered response to the situation:
So I think, as a whole, the industry should do what every other industry should do — which is to look for talent, provide opportunity to everybody. And I think the Oscar debate is really just an expression of this broader issue. Are we making sure that everybody is getting a fair shot?
Viola Davis and David Oyelowo both had similarly reasonable reactions. Whoopi Goldberg didn’t go so far as boycotting, but she did say she was going to “continue to b**ch all year round.” Meanwhile, a profanity-laden reaction from Snoop Dogg on Instagram made it clear he wanted nothing to do with the Oscars, and Tyrese took to Facebook to call on Chris Rock to step down from his gig as host of this year’s proceedings.
Rock has not heeded that call, and he’s the big question mark for the evening, but we know he’ll address the issue, and he’s not known for pulling punches. So the Academy can probably expect a fairly thorough skewering, but the biggest question of all is whether Rock’s pointed comedy and the rest of the uproar over #OscarsSoWhite will be enough to spur action to ensure that the Oscars and Hollywood as a whole is as diverse as the audiences who watch movies.