“It's a white industry. Just as the NBA is a black industry. I'm not even saying it's a bad thing. It just is. And the black people they do hire tend to be the same person. That person tends to be female and that person tends to be Ivy League. And there's nothing wrong with that. As a matter of fact, that's what I want for my daughters. But something tells me that the life my privileged daughters are leading right now might not make them the best candidates to run the black division of anything. And the person who runs the black division of a studio should probably have worked with black people at some point in their life. Clint Culpepper [a white studio chief who specializes in black movies] does a good job at Screen Gems because he's the kind of guy who would actually go see Best Man Holiday. But how many black men have you met working in Hollywood? They don't really hire black men. A black man with bass in his voice and maybe a little hint of facial hair? Not going to happen. It is what it is.” —Chris Rock, “I Don’t Want to Play F---ing Huggy Bear,” The Hollywood Reporter, Dec. 12, 2014
There are all kinds of reasons why Selma suffered a near-total eclipse when Oscar nominations were announced. Personally, I think that the lateness of the film in being screened—especially the inability to get DVDs in the hands of Academy voters in time before the nominations—proved decisive.
But comedian Rock’s matter-of-fact, more-in-sorrow-than-anger description of the demographic composition of the industry cannot be explained away. If anything constructive comes out of all the criticism that Hollywood is getting now from Selma’s vanishing act at awards time (and Al Sharpton’s predictable posturing is, most definitely, not it), opening wide the doors of the industry to more racial/ethnic groups—heck, even more viewpoints—should be it.
(This photograph of Chris Rock was taken by Luigi Novi in June 2004 at the New York City premiere of Spike Lee’s She Hate Me.)