Awards season came to a close on Sunday, Feb. 24 with the broadcast of the Academy Awards, where the best cinematic creations of the year are celebrated. As of recent years, there has been much controversy about diversifying the Oscars and the film industry as a whole. The inclusion of minority groups has been scarce, but the film industry and the Academy has improved on this issue. Many critics and movie fans are still not satisfied with how the results of the awards played out this year, despite the dramatic changes that the Academy has made to incorporate more diversity in their awards.
“Green Book” came away as the winner for best picture this year, but it received a lot of backlash, mainly because of the idea that the movie was a “simplistic take on race relations,” and worked towards “advancing the ‘white savior’ conceit.” From seeing “Green Book” myself, I really enjoyed the film and thought it had a great message about people of different races coming together in a time period where segregation was getting ready to come to an end. However, the portrayal of this relationship was not done correctly, and I agree that it portrays “white savior conceit.” “Green Book” did not deserve to win best picture for these reasons.
“Green Book” is a film based on a true story about an Italian-American man who is hired to be the driver and bodyguard of a gay, African American pianist while he is on tour in the South in 1962. Throughout the film, the two men acknowledge their differences, but also come to realize their commonalities. The issue with this is that throughout the entire movie, there are constant moments where Mahershala Ali’s character, Dr. Donald Shirley, gets into trouble with people who do not view blacks as equal, and Viggo Mortensen’s character, Tony Vallelonga, comes to save the day each time. The movie is trying to portray a developing friendship between men of different races, but it actually portrays the relationship of a helpless black man needing constant assistance from a more powerful and respected white man.
In the eyes of society today and how broadly it is being spread that blacks and whites are equals and should be treated as such, this movie does not showcase that. It seems to fully develop the idea that Dr. Shirley needs Tony’s help all the time, instead of fully focusing on the relationship they are building. With the current desire for the Academy and film industry to diversify itself more, this is clearly not what people were looking for, and I agree. Instead of fully representing a developing relationship between men of different races, which is what is needed and relevant in today’s society, it continues to develop the idea of white men being superior, which is what got us into this inequality in the first place.
If the Academy wanted a best picture that circles around African American injustice in order to include more diversity in their awards, then there was another nominee that would have been more deserving, and that is Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman.” Lee was openly upset about the “Green Book” win, but he said that “the academy was changing, noting the organization’s aggressive efforts to diversify its membership after the #OscarsSoWhite outcries of 2015 and 2016.” He was at least glad that “BlacKkKlansman” was nominated “so it wasn’t a complete example of history repeating itself.”
We cannot expect the full incorporation of diversity in the Academy and film industry to happen overnight. If we put it into perspective, segregation officially became outlawed in 1964, but we are still experiencing racial issues in today’s society. The relationships between people of different races has improved tremendously since then, but we are still having problems, as is the Academy when it comes to adding more diversity. This type of transformation really is imperative if we want our film industry and so many other businesses to better represent America as the true melting pot that it is. This transformation takes time, but the improvements are eminent, and it’s still progress in the right direction.