Hip-hop pioneer and entrepreneur Russell Simmons published a scathing critique of the film industry Friday and said the problem with those funding movies “is that while they believe in the concept of an all-inclusive, post-racial America, they don’t trust in it enough to bank on it.”
“The music industry gets it because they have no choice,” Simmons wrote in his piece published on HollywoodReporter.com Friday. “Music executives couldn’t segregate artists if they tried!”
An excerpt from Simmon’s critique: > Sure enough, when the Oscars aired, the old guard hadn’t changed; the players were the same, and the winners — though talented and deserving — were not representative of the movies people were paying to see. The white-bread dynasty was in full effect from the moment Billy Crystal started singing his “Oscar Oscar Oscar” ditty. No surprises. No scandals. No upsets. No party. No flavor. Everyone was up in arms at Billy Crystal’s joke, which, in my opinion, wasn’t racist in and of itself and could have played well everywhere else. But didn’t go over well in a place that excludes people of color. That joke made a statement that the Academy’s voting practices and insight into American mainstream culture remains deeply flawed. The elephant in the room was finally exposed.
No disrespect to the winners, but the consensus seemed to be that the audience felt left out. White bread had gone moldy stale. The sad part is it doesn’t have to be this way. Hollywood is just misinformed because those who run it are isolated from their consumers. I have seen this up close. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been in a meeting and heard Hollywood execs say, “I love that, but the audience will never go for it,” I would be able to greenlight all the movies I believed in. There is a definite disconnect in the way they view the world. They don’t believe that a great number of people in Middle America live in, or at least aspire to live in, a post-racial America.
The truth is, Hollywood’s dream is already a reality, they just don’t believe it. The people who go to the movies want to see this aspiration or reality reflected back to them in the products they buy. Hollywood isn’t selling those products. Thankfully, other industries such as music and advertising are. But Hollywood is a monster power that needs to be a step ahead, but sadly they are a step behind.
So who is to blame? It can’t all fall on their choice to make it impossible for Brett and Eddie to get up there and do their thing. As I said, they did hire Brian Grazer, who is no stranger to diversity. While having Eddie hosting would have been a huge step in the right direction, it’s not really fair to ask the Oscars to represent a movie industry that is flawed itself from the inside out. Some films successfully represent diverse cultural melting pots, but how many black executives are greenlighting films? How many Latinos are selling scripts? How many Asians are carrying leading roles?
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the group that votes for the Oscars, is nearly 94 percent white and 77 percent male, according to a Los Angeles Times study published last month. Blacks are about 2 percent of the academy, and Latinos are less than 2 percent.