16 Mar, 2023 - 00:03 0 Views


LOS ANGELES. For black folks watching the 95th Academy Awards, there weren’t many chances for surprises.

We knew there wouldn’t be a Black winner in Best Picture, Director, Lead Actor, Lead Actress, and International Film because on nomination morning, when the primary drama occurred, the Academy failed to nominate The Woman King, Saint Omer, or Till — almost guaranteeing the few remaining mysteries reserved for the actual ceremony could only offer disappointment. 

How often would the slap by Will Smith, last year’s disgraced Best Actor winner for King Richard, be used as a punchline?

Would any mention be made of the Andrea Roseborough controversy?

Would any of the few Black nominees — Ruth E. Carter for Costume Design, Camille Friend for Makeup and Hairstyling, Tems, Rihanna, and Ryan Coogler for song, and Angela Bassett for Best Supporting Actress, all for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – take home an Oscar?

Whatever hopes existed were dashed quickly: Only Ruth E. Carter — the first black woman to become a two-time Oscar winner – was honoured.

A despondent Bassett, with possibly the night’s biggest disappointment, lost to Jamie Lee Curtis for her role in the night’s biggest winner Everthing Everywhere All At Once.

Curtis pulled out the victory while riding a wave of adulation for her nearly 50-year career.

Bassett was similarly in the “she’s due” category.

But, with both performances broadly embraced by critics and audiences alike, career narrative only worked for the former.

While it’s unfair to say that white performers typically succeed with such a narrative (recently, Glenn Close, Amy Adams, Michael Keaton, and Sylvester Stallone have failed with that line of attack), black women seemingly are never able to use the same appeal to nostalgia.

The problem at hand isn’t confined to Bassett losing.

It’s the fact that black aspirations, relegated to a small hill of crumbs, were only pinned to Bassett and Carter in the first place.

The mere mention of The Woman King and Till was treated as an olive branch, a consolation for snubs driven by misogynoir.

Smith’s slap was used for a string of petty, nauseating jokes that felt harsher than Chris Rock’s stand-up special, host Jimmy Kimmel couldn’t go a second without making a quip at Smith’s expense.

It’s seen in the lack of imagination to envision categories where the predominant skin colour of the nominees isn’t white (Supporting Actress was by far the most diverse).

It’s the inability to consider that a courtroom drama featuring two Senegalese women, or a biopic about a Black mother and Civil Rights leader sans onscreen Black trauma, or a historical epic centered around an African woman army aren’t “universal” stories built upon exceptional craft and deft care. 

Maybe because her loss is a perpetuation of the lie often told by Hollywood.

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