It may be different than any before, but awards season is upon us. This also means people point out discrepancies and posturing in Hollywood. For their part, The film industry rushes to apologize, promises to make changes, and proceeds to joke about it. This was the case at this year‘s Golden Globes as hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler joked about the Golden Globes lack of Black members.
But why should we believe they care this time?
We have heard this song and dance before – literally. In recent years, the Academy Awards have had to deal with the #OscarsSoWhite and #NotMyOscars movements. The answer each time has been the same. Acknowledge, apologize, have a laugh at their own expense. Each time, the routine comes with an unspoken promise of change. Each year, nothing changes.
It is hard to imagine that this time will be any different. Right off the bat, the message comes off as disingenuous. Soul was rightfully lauded when it was released for having a Black protagonist and its focus on jazz music. Trailers for the film promised a story that would be about the Black experience. It is a good movie that provided audiences something different – to an extent.
About halfway through Soul, the lead character Joe and a character he meets named 22 go through a version of a body swap. This is not uncommon-especially in Disney movies. At this point, the story is less about the Black experience and more about finding one’s self. This is a fine message that is common in family films. While it is disappointing the movie did not go all in on the Black experience, the animation is gorgeous and the story is enjoyable. Except that 22 is voiced by Fey.
Yes, for much of the movie, a white woman controls a Black man’s body.
In Fey’s defense, 22 is not supposed to be white. It is not even made clear if 22 is a “she”. None of this changes the fact that Soul went from a Black man trying to live out his musical dreams to an undefined being trying to discover their purpose in life. How can we take Fey or Hollywood seriously when they say they are going to change this time when one of the movies being honored at the Golden Globes was afraid to stick with its own POC-centric narrative?
Hypocrisy is part of the awards season experience. People point out the lack of inclusivity and gender bias that exists in the film industry. The response is a prepared statement, pointed barbs at awards shows, and a self congratulatory attitude after making jokes about a serious issue. It is great that Hollywood has gotten to the point they can talk about their problems. Maybe one day, they will correct them.
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