The #OscarsSoWhite debate, which has been raging ever since the Academy Awards failed to nominate a single actor or actress of color for the second year in a row earlier this month, has reached such a fever pitch that even President Barack Obama has been asked to weigh in.
The fallout from the nominations (or lack thereof) has led to calls for an Oscars boycott and the academy’s decision to revise the process by which it invited members to join, imposing term limits while making concerted efforts to increase diversity.
During an interview with the KABC Los Angeles affiliate, the president said: “I think that California is an example of the incredible diversity of this country. That’s a strength. I think that when everybody’s story is told, then that makes for better art, it makes for better entertainment, it makes everybody feel part of one American family.”
Obama went on the suggest that “as a whole, the industry should do what every other industry should do, which is to look for talent, and provide opportunity to everybody. I think the Oscar debate is really just an expression of this broader issue of are we making sure that everybody is getting a fair shot.” Obama has enjoyed widespread support from within the Hollywood community during his two campaigns for the presidency and tenure in the White House. And first lady Michelle Obama famously announced the Best Picture Academy Award winner in 2013.
Still, the president has largely stayed out of pop culture debates, although he did recently deem Grammy nominee Kendrick Lamar a better rapper than Drake.
Previously, Democratic Rep. Danny Davis, who hails from Obama’s home state of Illinois, was one of the only politicians to take a public stance on the issue. During a recent interview with MSNBC, Davis, who is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, insisted that the Oscars’ lack of minority representation was not a “priority” for him, but he still backs the concept of a boycott.
“It just raises the issue of the lack of equality and the level of sensitivity that sometimes needs to be displayed in order to say when we do get to this point where we display the idea that all men are created equal. And we haven’t got there yet,” Davis said. “Hopefully we’re on our way and will get there.”
Meanwhile, Oscar host Chris Rock is reportedly rewriting his entire opening monologue to address the backlash the awards have received.
“You should expect [#OscarsSoWhite jokes],”Reginald Hudlin, the show’s producer, who also is African-American, recently told “Entertainment Tonight.” ”And, yes, the Academy is ready for him to do that. They’re excited about him doing that. They know that’s what we need. They know that’s what the public wants, and we deliver what the people want.”