Selma main protagonist, David Oyelowo who plays Martin Luther King in Selma said that the Academy of Motion Pictures has a culture of celebrating subservient and servile black characters in movies and that is the main reason why ‘Selma’ did not have several Oscar nominations. He said this at the Virtuoso Awards at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival which took place recently.
The actor mentioned that The Academy’s snubbing of ‘Selma’ is just one of Hollywood’s ingrained culture of shunning assertive black characters in movies and cited Denzel Washington who did not receive an Oscar for his role portraying Malcom X in the movie back in 1992.
“We’ve just got to come to the point whereby there isn’t a self-fulfilling prophecy, a notion of who black people are that feeds into what we are celebrated as. Not just in the Academy – just in life generally,” He continues “We have been slaves, we have been domestic servants, we have been criminals, we have been all of those things, But we’ve been leaders. We’ve been kings. We’ve been those who change the world. Those films where that is the case are so hard to get made.”
“Up until 12 Years a Slave and The Butler performed well both critically and at the box office, films like this were told through the eyes of white protagonists, because there is a fear of white guilt,” he explained. “So you have a very nice white person who holds black people’s hands through their own narrative. And then you have black people to be [like], ‘We don’t want to see that pain again,’ so you don’t really go into what that pain was in an authentic way. Both of those things are patronizing to the audience.”
The 38-year-old actor also talked about the “racial apologist” consisting of some very nice white people who feel guilty of centuries of maltreating black people and are now hyper-sensitive of using words that are deemed as racial slurs, such as the recent gaffe involving British actor Benedict Cumberbatch when he used the word “colored” while talking about the lack of diversity in british acting scenes. He defended Cumberbatch when the British actor came under fire for using the word, as the main point of his discussion in the interview was to bring to fore the issue of diversity in the British film industry. Cumberbatch later apologized for using the word ‘ colored ‘ deemed derogatory at this age.(Click here if you missed it)!
“Everyone has ended up ignoring the issue Benedict was talking about and focusing on that one word. It’s actually stopped us [from] talking about race.” Oyelowo said this in an interview with People and reprinted in Times.