There's been a lot of hoopla about race in the American news lately. By race, usually just black and white are meant. I don't normally write topical posts, but this one is a mix of topical and broad observations. It probably won't be as epic as its title. Hollywood has a diversity issue which Al Sharpton, a race-baiter for sure, tried to bring up and dubiously tie into a couple of Oscar "snubs." I already have a slew of problems with media awards shows which you can read about here. "Snubs" happen every year and the designation is relatively subjective. The idea that racism is involved is entirely unprovable and therefore an irresponsible allegation. People who seem to be conservatives, on the other hand, are standing up for Hollywood, oddly enough, with ignorance and bad logic, seemingly to only be anti-Sharpton. They are very ignorant about how the industry works. Affirmative action is bad, but what does affirmative action even mean in an artistic field with no objective measure of excellence? The acting field is not a meritocracy of talent, but actors are judged on all sorts of things that have nothing to do with talent.
I am against affirmative action! Affirmative action, to me, means flipping a coin one hundred times and mandating fifty heads and fifty tails. In real life, career fields, school applications, etc. don't always reflect the census of America. Disproportionate amounts of different groups of people get into different things. The odds that the numbers would ever line up perfectly are one in a quintillion. Insofar as this disparity has anything to do with real discrimination, which is increasingly rare, it is a problem to be stamped out. Insofar as it is just a matter of personal choices and ambitions, who cares? Affirmative action also dumbs down standards and punishes people for their ethnicity and not even just white people. This is why it is not so much about correcting past injustices as it is a never ending quota system. It also pushes people into environments that are over their head where they won't thrive. If one group of students isn't doing well in school, fix their schools, don't accept them to colleges where they will fail.
Art and especially acting is different. Art is not a technical field. Many people have compared art to sports, a terrible analogy, and pointed out the disproportionate amount of black people in the NBA. White people, though, are objectively and measurably not as good at basketball. Art doesn't have a scoreboard. Also, unlike sports, in movies, diversity makes a difference because it changes the type of stories you can tell. Basketball is basketball no matter who is on the court.
Lastly, Hollywood is not an actor's utopian meritocracy. Anyone claiming it is is ignorant. Most Hollywood movies star the white male lead. Is this because women and minorities are bad actors or are not trying very hard to break into the industry? No! There are all sorts of reasons for this, but many revolve around the people making the stories, the people controlling what gets made, the people casting these stories and last but certainly not least, audience demographics. None of these things, except the casting portion to a large degree, have to do with actor's talent. Add in connections, good looks and a slew of other things and you realize that few fields are less of a meritocracy than acting. Movies begin with scripts, not actors. The script defines what types of people can play a role. Casting websites, when used, are mostly just pages of head shots. Head shots are one of the first criteria used to thin the herd, not talent. Minorities currently seem to be moving up in television and this is because of the changing American audience demographics, not because minority actors magically just got good. Hollywood is a business!
Ultimately, if American audiences really want to see more diversity on the screen, the first thing they should do is go to their local library and pick up a foreign film.