Some of you may remember that a while back Stephen King fell into the trap that so many fall into these days, he Tweeted what he thought was an innocuous remark, only to discover that the world can instantly turn on you and decide you are racist, sexist, homophobic, or every other thing they can think of to call you.
King’s Tweet, if you haven’t read it said …I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.
King was discussing the recent Oscar nominations, and their complete lack of diversity. He is a member of the Academy and while I see what he is saying here, it’s troublesome because it seems to almost shake off any real responsibility for the lack of diversity in the nominations. It takes any responsibility he may have as an Academy voter to make sure that the nominations aren’t all white men, all the time.
Another site I follow, Book Riot, posted AN OPEN LETTER TO STEPHEN KING by one of their writers, Kate McLain.
In her letter, McLain says that, “I have long admired your work and your straightforward perspective on writing.” Furthermore, McLain says, “I was extremely disappointed,” in Kings Tweet, but also added, “Perhaps not surprised, as I am increasingly less surprised at the ability of white men to look beyond themselves, but disappointed all the same because I know you are capable of better.”
I am a big King fan, and I have always noticed that he includes female characters in his stories, and there are plenty of very strong female characters in his stories, but rarely does he include more diversity than that. As a writer myself, I get it. You primarily write what you know. Before I met my husband, who is an African American man, I never included anybody but white folks in my writing. I feel sad admitting that, but I need to say it, because I am guilty of having diversity blinders on for most of my life.
I do see what King’s point was. To me he is saying, if we lived in a perfect world where people understood each other and where diversity wasn’t an issue, we could and would judge art on its merits and its quality, not on who created it.
But we don’t live in that world.
In a Washington Post editorial, King addresses the controversy by saying, “Discussions of arts and culture, like discussions of politics, have become increasingly acrimonious and polarized in recent years,” and that if you say the “wrong” thing (as perceived by the weird judge and jury that is the internet) you can be mocked, ostracized, receive death threats, or potentially worse.
We all know the Oscars have a diversity problem…
But how do we fix it?
Photo Credit: Oscar.Go
King agrees that “Of the nine films nominated for Best Picture this year, the majority…are what my sons call “man-fiction.” There are fights, guns and many white faces.”
It comes down to diversity vs. quality.
What’s unsurprising is that the people who dole out these awards are not representative of the people who make the art they are voting on. In King’s editorial, he states that, “…Eight years ago, 94 percent of the 5,700 voters were white, according to the Los Angeles Times, 77 percent were male and 54 percent were more than 60 years old. This year, women make up 32 percent of voters…and minority members equal 16 percent of the total.”
Change is happening, but it’s at a snails pace, and not at all in keeping with what people want, or what they consume in their art. But the best and most sustainable changes come slowly, surely, and with purpose. So I think we all have to ride out this current dumpster fire of a world and see that positive will eventually emerge.
All hope is not lost.
Honestly, I think King made his remark and it wasn’t the best. I don’t want him to judge a movie or book, or any art based on who wrote it (i.e. their skin color, gender or sexual preference), but I want them to be judged by the quality of the art they’ve created. Is that where we live right now? No, because people of color, women, LGBTQ, et cetera all suffer from a lack of representation everywhere, not just the arts.
We need to make efforts to include everyone in the conversation, and not just the people we nominate again, and again, and again.
Some of the 2020 Nominees
Photo Credit: The Wrap
Because really, The Irishman for best picture? Seriously? Even Once Upon a Time in Hollywood doesn’t seem worthy to me, and I liked that movie. But there were other, better movies that came out that were by non-white, non-male creators.
For real, who does and doesn’t win an Oscar (or any award) doesn’t really matter much to me. I’d much rather put my energies towards the upcoming Presidential Election and getting people to vote for something that matters. But I also want to live in a world where people of color aren’t just getting nominations for playing a gangster or a slave.
We need to do better as artists, as people, as humans.
The Oscars are this weekend, so will I be watching? I used to love awards show when I was younger and found the glitz and glamor exciting. Nowadays, I’d rather watch something else. Not something necessarily more high-brow or fancy pants, but something that makes me happy, which awards show do not.
Will YOU be watching?