The film 12 Years a Slave captured the horrors inflicted on a free black man after he was kidnapped, beaten and forced to work as a slave. American Hustle’s horrors involved bad perms, wince-inducing ’70s fashion and a character faking a British accent to separate strangers from their money.
This year’s battle for the Best Picture Oscar pitted an “important” film versus an entertaining one, and American Hustle didn’t stand a chance.
We all know now that Slave came away with the Best Picture Oscar Sunday night. The LA Times reveals that two Oscar voters admitted to choosing the harrowing slave drama without actually seeing it. Were those voters alone in their actions? And how much did selecting an “important” movie outweigh the film’s artistic merits?
Oscars host Ellen DeGeneres hinted at the matter during her opening monologue, joking that those who don’t vote for 12 Years a Slave are racist. The line got a laugh, but in light of the voters’ revelations the matter isn’t so funny–at least for the creative team behind American Hustle.
Hollywood’s diversity track record remains awful despite Slave’s Oscar triumph. The industry rarely hires people of color for key positions, a subject which came up repeatedly in the months leading up to Oscar night.
A symbolic vote for a film like Slave won’t change that. Real change needs to happen within the industry, something that won’t occur by Oscar voters selecting films they think will absolve the industry’s guilt regarding race matters.