Entertainment Opinions & Features April 30, 2021 at 07:30 am

No, Chadwick Boseman not winning Oscar is not racist

Nii Ntreh April 30, 2021 at 07:30 am

April 30, 2021 at 07:30 am | Entertainment, Opinions & Features

Chadwick Boseman was nominated for the Oscars Best Actor in Leading Role for his role as Levee Green in 2020's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Photo Credit: Twitter

The decision of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) to give the Oscar for Best Male Actor to British actor Sir Anthony Hopkins at the 93rd Academy Awards instead of a posthumous nod to beloved African-American star Chadwick Boseman irked many movie fans who were quick to suspect foul play.

As seen on many social media platforms. Hopkins’ win was jeered, with many of the opinion that the star did not deserve his second Oscar win, 29 years after securing the first for his performance as the feared cannibal Hannibal Lecter in Silence of The Lambs. Yet, the resentment against AMPAS and even Hopkins, either lacked the weight of agreeable evidence or was simply fueled by a notion that the mere sight of an older white man chosen over a Black man was definitely racist.

The tirade and critical rants on Twitter, home of the loudest, were the worst. The AMPAS was accused of racism, mostly. Academy voters were told they did not do due diligence. In all of this, it was intriguing to see some sense of objectivism invoked by Boseman’s unsolicited campaigners who said that any honest conclusion should have had the Black Panther star winning on the night. The language was harsh and unforgiving.

Hopkins paid homage to Boseman, regretting that Boseman was “taken from us far too early”. That certainly did not look like it helped the 83-year-old man whose sole crime was to put in his best in The Father. It has had to take Boseman’s family to defend Hopkins against the backlash in the days after the show.

These critics were eager to forget that the nominations on the night were the most diverse, ever. And so were the victories. From the stables of the blah-blah base, it almost felt as if they thought Boseman had the right to win because he died.

A Black duo won for the first time for Makeup and Styling; an animation movie on a Black man’s determination to be a renowned jazz musician won; a Chinese woman won for Best Director; a Korean woman for Best Supporting Actress; a British-Ugandan man for Best Supporting Actor; singer H.E.R. for Original Song and the Black Louisiana-born instrumentalist and singer Jon Batiste for Original Score. If who wins on the night is any grounds to suspect racist foul play, the critics are lacking solid swathes.

The Academy was also criticized for baiting viewers into watching the whole show by putting to last the category in which Boseman was nominated. Never mind the fact that the Oscars have never promised a particular order of presentation. But if we are even to fall on what has happened in many previous years, the award for Best Actor often comes towards the end when a viewer would have seen nearly 90% of the live production.

It should surprise the very few of us with modest and meaningful intentions that this anti-Oscars campaign was spurred by the blue-check Twitterati. A deputy editorial director at Buzzfeed, for instance, went with this:

The Oscars were so sure that Chadwick Boseman was going to win that they REARRANGED THE ENTIRE CEREMONY so his category could be last, and then they gave the award to Anthony Hopkins instead…the most chaotic and unhinged thing I’ve ever seen.

It’s been about half a decade since the morally necessary campaign of Oscars So White occurred. In the period between then and now, it has not only been the AMPAS that has moved consciously towards recognizing ethnic minorities. The Golden Globes and even the BAFTAs (which happens in a country where less than 5% of people are Black) have too. Diversity is also a road that has increasingly been taken by studios and directors in Hollywood. Of course, all of this is not intended for some perfect ethnic-quota destination. The ideal human society will forever remain an ideal but it is fallacious to be dissuaded from pursuing it.

Conclusively, one has to be reminded to fear what this essentially was: A gut call from the people on the upper-terrace who refuse to get down, roll up their sleeves and help in the digging. If they shouted enough about representation, people would forget they are not helping to make it happen.

For the sake of the benefit of the doubt, let us even permit that this was pushed by the best intentions. We would still be caught up in the neoliberal bubble of seeing the richest Black man, the first Black US Defense Secretary, the best Black this and the most Black that, so much so that the actual work of collapsing white supremacy as expressed in white capitalism, colonization and imperialism, would be left untouched.

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