This year’s all-white round of Oscar acting nominations — the second in a row — sparked a national outcry and raised new uncomfortable questions about whether or not the entertainment industry, known for its ultra-liberal values, is secretly harboring racial biases.
But some in Hollywood’s conservative community say nothing could be further from the truth.
“It’s shortsighted that people are making these accusations and, frankly, it’s insulting,” said Oscar nominated writer, director and producer Lionel Chetwynd. “I’m quite capable of judging and marveling at a performance without being conscious of the actor’s skin color. What’s wrong with you all? It’s not the Academy of Diversity.”
Chetwynd, who prides himself on his citation from the NAACP’s Image Awards, believes that this year’s vote was not a case of bigotry, but rather a reflection of the best performances, adding that change will come eventually.
“Sometimes it takes a long period of time for cultural changes to be reflected in the Academy,” Chetwynd said. “The people who built the Academy were largely white, which reflected the time, and they’re going to be replaced by a new generation of artists. But that doesn’t happen overnight. And it shouldn’t.”
Roger Neal, founder and owner of Hollywood public relations firm NPR, told TheWrap, “I’ve handled more African-American stars than any other ethnicity during my 35 years as a publicist and manager. But my personal belief is that it’s been blown out of proportion.”
Others believe politics should play no part in the Academy’s voting process.
“The Academy Awards should continue to be won based on merit and talent,” Emmy-Award winning host and actress Dee Dee Sorvino told TheWrap. “The only color that Oscar should take into consideration is gold.”
Sorvino, who is married to actor Paul Sorvino, noted that “If the criteria includes quotas and affirmative action, they might as well pack up from Hollywood and set up in Washington.”
Hollywood is facing a barrage of criticism that seems to be growing louder by the minute.
On Monday director Spike Lee said he would not attend what he called the “lily-white Oscars,” while leading entertainment figures such as Michael Moore, Will Packer, David Oyelowo and Idris Elba have publicly denounced this year’s nominations.
Smith, whom many believe should have been nominated for his role in “Concussion,” told “Good Morning America” that he was skipping the award show because he was “uncomfortable to stand there and say that this is OK.”
“Sometimes people don’t get nominated when they should,” said Neal. “In this particular case, my first thought is that Jada is just throwing a public tantrum because her husband got snubbed.”
Neal noted that, while there’s always room for improvement, it’s important to remember that things are moving in the right direction.
“The president of the Academy, the producer of the show and the host are all African-American,” he said.