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The Oscars will abolish "Best Actress" etc. in 2017

Editorial Staff

Complaints that the USA's Academy of Motion Picture Arts Awards fails to recognise black actors has resulted in a full review of classifications. We have obtained a transcript of a secret discussion, that did not take place, between the three anonymous people who really run the Oscars. Their names have been changed to protect the ridiculous.

A: So, we are being accused of racism because African Americans don't win awards

B: Black.

A: What?

B: The complaint isn't that African Americans don't win, it's that Blacks don't win.

A: I thought we weren't supposed to call them that, any more.

B: Who knows? It seems that they are Black when it suits them.

C: What is "black" anyway?

A: Oh, don't get onto that. That opens up a ridiculous can of worms. We gave an award to Halley Berry. She was hailed as black. She isn't. She's mixed. Then she went fundamentalist and decided that she's a supporter of the one drop theory which, let's face it, was an invention of racism of the worst kind.

C: It's more complicated that it first seems: the trendy "people of color" tag is now being applied. The argument is that we are all tighty whiteys. There is even a hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. Some wag in England started using #OscarsSoWhat and saying we were an irrelevance anyway and just a mix of marketing and ego-boosting.

A: Well, that's right. All awards are. So he gets no points for stating the obvious.

B: Who started this fuss?

A: I don't know who started it but the one who got all the publicity was Spike Lee who announced he would boycott the ceremony this year.

C: So what? Does he think that TV will show an empty place at a table, or a one-minute vacancy on the Red Carpet? What does he plan to do? Hold an anti-Oscar party and expect all the journos and bloggers to attend instead of jostling for position outside the venue?

A: Hang on. Spike Lee is a prolific director and makes black-dominated films. But critics - not us - have generally formed the view that his work is mostly poor or self-indulgent. He's used some fine actors, like Denzel Washington, but mostly the actors are lost in poor characters or muddled film-making. That's the main body of critics speaking, not us. So if I understand his argument correctly, what he's saying is that we should give awards to actors in his films despite the poor end result?

C: I don't think he's saying that. I think he's saying that there are many good black actors who don't get recognised.

A: We can only recognise them if they are in films that we want to sit through.

B: Can we think of some Black actors that deserve acting awards?

A: Joe Morton.

C: he got an Emmy. He's a TV actor that occasionally does film parts. So he's rarely eligible for an Oscar.

B. It's easier to discount people than to list them. Forest Whittaker (laughs).. he's made an entire career out of opening his eyes wide, dropping his lower jaw and staring just off camera. As soon as he did something worthy, the Idi Amin character, he won every award that matters. That begged the question whether every awards body was looking for an excuse to give something to a black actor.

C: that's unfair.

A: it's no more unfair that trying to blackmail us into giving awards that are not deserved. It has to be said that The Butler was great work, too, but in a year of strong competition and not everyone can win. Who else? When I run through almost all the examples I've seen in recent years, those that stick out are clones who run around being foul mouthed or screaming. How many times do I need to hear "I'm going to bust a cap in yo ass" or to hear a woman called a "ho" to decide that I don't need it any more? And how many times to I need to be confronted with a woman wiggling from side to side adopting some weird voice calling everyone "girlfriend?" Give me acting not pastiche, give me acting not templates and then I'll pay attention. We don't make the films, we don't create the characters. If we see a film made for a niche market, we call it Arthouse. Almost all "black" films are the same - arthouse aimed at a defined and narrow market. Good films will break out: it's not an ideal comparison but Brokeback Mountain was a break-out fim.

C: no it wasn't. It was a mainstream film where the marketing focussed on one small detail: it was a true love story in which both characters happened to be men. Look beyond their gender and it was a fantastic story beautifully filmed and wonderfully acted. In many ways, the homosexuality detracted from the film, looked for controversy, where there need be none. That's where so called minority interests have it wrong. They want to focus on their agenda instead of concentrating on great film-making in which genuine acting is on display, not just aping their past performances or playing into roles that are in effect a ghetto of the film-maker's own creation.

B: The Screen Actors Guilt gave awards to black actors this year.

C: They gave an award to one black actor and three black actresses.

A: Hang on. Are we still allowed to call them actresses?

B: Huh?

A: the feminist, lesbian, misnamed-liberal view is that they are all "actors."

C: I thought that was irony.

A: we are Americans. We don't understand irony.

B: here's a plan. In any battle, it's always better to cause a diversion than to have a head-on fight on your opponent's chosen ground. An old Chinese guy said something like that. But he'd be yellow not black so he's got no skin in this argument. If we give way here, then we're going to be under siege from every self-important minority, just because they are a minority. We'll soon have complaints that men with three nipples and women with six toes are under-represented. So, let's abolish all categories that include any form of differentiation.

We'll say "we have listened to the criticism that the Academy does not regard all actors in an equal light and that, as a result, we do not provide equal treatment. That, we regret to say, has long been so. We have segregated our awards. We have therefore determined that this will no longer be the case. Therefore, in response to the criticisms of bias, we have decided that this year, 2016, will be the last year in which there are awards for Best Actress, Best Actress in a Supporting Role and all other awards that are restricted in any way. From 2017 onwards, everyone will be judged by the same simple criteria. Did they act or whatever better than every other nominee?

A: will that work?

B: it'll push all the other stories off the front page. That's a win. We can't please everyone, so let's piss off everyone by taking the highest possible position and standing back and watching them fight it out between themselves, while they throw brickbats at us but all fall short because all we have to do is blow them up in mid air by repeating that we have taken steps to remove all aspects of prejudice and now it's up to the film-makers and actors to do the best job possible if they want to win.

C: we could go a step further and decide that we can refuse to make an award, a kind of "none of the above" vote if we think the quality of nominees isn't good enough."

D, speaking for the first time: no. You can't do that. This industry revolves around mediocrity putting vast numbers of bums on seats. Quality is irrelevant to the Oscars: all that matters is how much a film can earn. The real problem is that the world has tired of clones of early Will Smith, tired of angry black men, tired of black men and women speaking in jiiiiiiiive or some such. It's easy to get black actors recognised: give them proper roles that are not defined by their race. Don't type cast them. When actors rise above their own background, not only colour, religion or even place of birth, then they become actors, not merely people being themselves playing a part. Leonardo di Caprio, Johnny Depp, Sean Penn, Nicole Kidman - they are great actors and actresses because you believe in their characters, and don't notice who is playing it. These are the people who, if it wasn't for the credits, we would leave the cinema saying "was that.....?" We should celebrate those actors and actresses who transport us, those for whom celluloid is merely the means of capturing who they are today, not give awards for turning up and playing themselves or replicating their performance from a previous outing. Lawrence Fishburn always looks like himself, so does Morgan Freeman. But their colour becomes invisible because of the power of their acting, just like Joe Morton and Queen Latifah (these days, in the early days she was trapped in clone-mode). That is what we need to encourage, not to pander to fashion, fads and foibles. This is what the industry needs to do.

A: Oh, Mr De Mille. I thought you were a stuffed replica of yourself.

Cecil B De Mille (for it is he that is D) No, I'm the Ghost of Film-Making past.

A: So it's agreed, then. We abolish all female awards, put everyone into the same category, accept nominations based on quality not sales or sales potential and create a credibility that our previous, self-serving, ego-boosting awards did not.

All: This will be fun. Let's do that, then.

Fast forward one year.

This year the Red Carpet show will be brought to you from Drew's Puppet Theatre in Lost Springs Wyoming, the only venue of exactly the right size for the expected crowd.



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