Dear Commons Community,
In addition to the winners and losers, many viewers last night were tuned in to watch Chris Rock’s opening monologue to see how he would addressed the OscarsSoWhite controversy. Rock, an African-American, did not hold back and dish it out but with the right amount of humor. It was a difficult assignment. Some examples.
Rock opened his monologue with “Well, I’m here at the Academy Awards, otherwise known as the White People’s Choice Awards.”
“If they nominated hosts, I wouldn’t even get this job,” he said. “You’d be watching Neil Patrick Harris.”
He also addressed the boycott that some major Black figures in Hollywood, like Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett-Smith. Many people wondered why he hadn’t quit the hosting gig as part of the protest, which he thought was ludicrous.
“I thought about quitting,” he said. “I thought about it real hard. They’re gonna have the Oscars anyway, and they’re not going to cancel them because I quit. And the last thing I need is to lose another job to Kevin Hart.”
Rock also wondered why this year was the year that garnered so much outrage about the lack of Black nominees: “Why this Oscars,” he asked. “It’s the 88th Academy Awards, which means this whole ‘no Black nominees’ thing has happened at least 71 other times.”
His answer to that question — why 2016 was the year’s diversity problem was the one that prompted so much backlash — was perhaps the joke the joke that made the most waves online.
“Black people did not protest [in years past]. Why? Because we had real things to protest at the time. [We were] too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won [Best] Cinematography.”
As many people noted throughout the #OscarsSoWhite conversation in the lead-up to Sunday’s ceremony, the lack of diversity in the acting nominations is more of a industry-wide problem in Hollywood and less the fault of the Academy itself. With so few Black performances in general, chances are there will be less Black actors nominated at the Oscars. And Rock addressed this idea in his monologue.
“The real question everybody wants to know is, ‘Is Hollywood racist?’ You’re damn right Hollywood is racist! They’re sorority racist. It’s like, ‘We like you Rhonda, but you’re not aKappa.'”
In the end, though, Rock said that “times are changing,” alluding to “Creed,” the 2015 “Rocky” redux that starred Michael B. Jordan, a Black actor. What needs to change though? The opportunities given to Black actors.
“We want opportunities — we want Black actors to get the same opportunities as white actors.”
Well done performance, Mr. Rock!