Monday, February 1, 2016

February 1, 2016

It’s award season, Poppets, and for many of us that’s a fabulous time. The glitz and glitter. The clothes. The gorgeous people out looking their most dashing and beautiful. What’s not to love?


Except that the Academy Awards nominations are entirely white throughout every single major category this year. Think about that: every nominee, of every gender, in every major category is one race – white.

But guess what? The host is black! So it’s okay, right? In other words, the man providing the entertainment is allowed to be a man of color, just not the award winners. Sounds remarkably like the minstrel shows, of you think about it. 

And let’s get this out of the way, too – I have NO quarrel with Chris Rock. First, he took the gig long before the nominations were announced and second, the man is allowed to cash his paycheck. If he’s comfortable taking the money, I am not about to tell him he’s out of place.

However, white people being amused and entertained by a black man – while honoring themselves and no one else? That I have a problem with.

And, honestly, you should, too. First, because the LGBTQ community includes people of color. When people of color are left out of anything, it means some of our own are being excluded. Then, because there is overlap here, even for those of us who are not people of color. Because white, cis, straight must not be the only things of value in our society. Yet we are told over and over and over again that they are. That white, straight, and cis are all that matter.

Even the times our stories are being told by Hollywood, they are being told too often by white, straight, and cis people. The Dallas Buyers Club and Jared Leto. Transparent and Jeffery Tambor. About Ray and Elle Fanning. The Danish Girl and Eddie Redmayne. And don’t get me started on what happened with Stonewall

Yes, these are brilliant performances by brilliant actors (with the notable exception of Stonewall, which was pretty bad all the way around). They are still white, straight, cis actors telling these stories – because, as we keep seeing, white, straight and cis is what’s considered valuable.

I’ve also heard the argument that there aren’t enough transgender actors who are talented enough to play the roles. While I have no definitive proof that this isn’t true, I still call bullshit. You know why? Because it’s the exact same argument that gets used to justify why there are so few people of color in any role of responsibility, from acting to Wall Street. It’s the same argument that gets used when yet another man gets a promotion or a six-figure job and a woman doesn’t. “We hired the best person. We would have loved to have hired someone not this white, straight, cis, man but no one else was as good.” Really? No, not really.

News flash – if casting directors only look for established, well-known transgender actors, they aren’t going to find many. We haven’t given them enough roles to become established and well-known. God love Laverne Cox, she can’t play every role out there.

We have slammed too many doors in too many faces to expect to be able to reopen them now and have the people we want standing there, waiting. Plus, let’s be honest – movie makers don’t actually want transgender actors (or actors of color, or openly gay, lesbian, or bi actors) in those roles. Because if the people in charge truly wanted those actors, they would find them.

In 2014, there was a delightful movie called Boy Meets Girl. Its budget was a pittance. And they found a charming, talented, charismatic, transgender young actress to play the role of a charming, talented, charismatic, transgender young woman. Trust and believe, if the producers of Boy Meets Girl can find Michelle Hendley, so can major players in Hollywood.

It’s also too close to the argument that’s being used to justify all the Oscar nominations being white this year. “Oh, it was such a strong field… We would have loved to have nomination actors of color, but…” I’m sorry, but Idris Elba, Benicio Del Toro, and Samuel L Jackson all had movies out this year. It doesn’t matter what the role is, those men deliver, at the very least, Oscar-nomination worthy performances.

Which brings us back to where we started and #Oscarssowhite – and why we should care.
It’s the 21st century. White, straight, and cis shouldn’t be the only ones who get to do the talking, or who get the honors.

Watch the Oscars, or don’t. Pay attention to the fashion, or don’t. I’m not calling for a boycott, or anything like that. Just don’t be oblivious, and don’t think that’s it’s not your issue. Because it is. It’s an issue – a problem – that belongs to all of us.

Until next month, Poppets, take care of you.

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