Chris Rock, knocks racism through ridicule and raucous rhetoric as the host of the 88th Academy Awards.
Chris Rock is known as a comedian, father, humanitarian and outspoken public figure throughout the halls of Hollywood’s “in-crowd”. Working his way through limited opportunities for people of color, Rock has managed to become an Emmy and Grammy award-winning comedian, and successful screenwriter, producer, actor and director. No stranger to challenging bigotry and lack of inclusion opportunities; Rock has directed films such as Head of State (2003), depicting the horror of “white america” to wake up and discover that the US has infact elected its first black president and all of the nuanced diatribe that would be associated with the downward spiral his decisions as an ‘inappropriate’ leader of the free world would create. Much like his recent gig as host of the 88th Academy Awards – the reception of his rhetoric received mixed reviews – with many also being startled at best and horrified at worst.
The Academy Awards have been under fire since nominations were first announced with no persons of color, specifically African Americans, being included in top categories such as “Best Film”, Best Actor/Actress, etc. although several high-grossing and well received films such as “Straight Outta Compton”, “Beasts of No Nation”, and “Concussion” had been released. The result became an ongoing conversation and a social media campaign titled #OscarsSoWhite, where many respected leaders in the Film and Production industry encouraged people to ‘ban the Oscars’ this year due to their blatant lack of inclusion for all qualified candidates.
BET and ABFF (American Black Film Festival) created a pop-up night of celebration of Black Films and Productions hosted by Mike Epps, honoring guests such as ABFF creator, Jeff Friday, Robert Townsend and Regina King (Ebony). Oscar and Grammy Award winning artist Common, cheered on black excellence with his 2nd Annual Toast to The Arts, highlighting talent like the late great Nina Simone, Ice Cube and Idris Elba. See the art gallery on Getty Images here. Russell Simmons partnered with Fusion and presented, “All Def Movies”, which all celebrated black film and included categories such as “Most Helpful White Person, Best Bad Muh F**ka, and Best Black Survivor.” Interestingly enough, Chris Rock’s brother, Tony Rock, hosted this extravaganza (Fusion). Tony Rock had nothing but positive things to say about his brother hosting the Oscar’s and reinforced that the All Def Movies was not a snub to the Academy Awards.
Where the aforementioned award shows highlighted the celebration of Black Excellence, the necessity of inclusion for all, and the passion to continue to believe in their projects, success and worth of being equally appreciated, some say the Oscars fell short in taking a serious approach for their misappropriation of how they measured talent and success of “all films” for 2015. Where hosts such as Epps and Rock (Tony) focused on the camaraderie and experience of acknowledging their talented peers and colleagues, Chris Rock had to pantomime through “Sambo-ish” monologues of satire celebration moments such as: introducing Stacey Dash as the African American outreach director for the Academy Awards, Angela Bassett hosting a segment celebrating ‘black success’ – Jack Black that is – and equivocating Jada Pinkett Smith’s call to boycott to Rock boycotting singer Rihanna’s panties; a place he NEVER was going to gain entry into in the first place. (See Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee Call to Boycott Oscars.)
Chris Rock may have straddled the fence between challenging the issues in Hollywood such as outwardly exclaiming, “You damn right Hollywood is racist”, and poking fun at the same rhetoric with “but racist in a Kappa Kappa Kappa kind of way”. However, his opinions of blacks being excluded in entertainment is clear. When he released his 2014 film, “Top Five”, he told The Hollywood reporter: “how many black men have you met working in Hollywood? They don’t really hire black men . . . It is what it is.”
As Global citizens, we must acknowledge the mistreatment of any population of people. Racism is real as demonstrated through other industries such as politics where KKK leaders are outwardly endorsing candidates and agendas are being set around “us” vs “them” themes. Lack of inclusion for women, real-time issues with respecting the work of African Americans the same as mainstream white actors, and the overabundance of death for young people of color at the hands of law enforcement were all issues Chris Rock attacked and brought to the forefront of the conversation during the Academy Awards.
Should a comedian be expected to take a night of celebration and success as an opportunity to insert agenda issues – it’s debatable. Should a top respected industry accolade such as the Oscars be expected to take the chagrin that they may be overtly discriminating against a specific population of people – ABSOLUTELY. Whether you loved or hated Chris Rock’s delivery for the 88th Academy Awards, it is definitively a performance that will continue to be discussed and highlighted for days to come.
Trish, HOC Contributor