Viola Davis: The problem isn’t the Oscars, the problem is the whole industry


Here are some photos of Viola Davis at ELLE’s Women In Television event on Wednesday. I wish I had a good excuse for not covering these photos yesterday, but I honestly just missed them. My bad! Viola is the first African-American woman to ever take home the Emmy for Best Actress in a Drama. In the past three or four years especially, Viola has been discussing race, gender, institutional racism, poverty, representation and more. And I love her. I love how thoughtful and ballsy she is. I love that she never attacks one person specifically, but you can feel her anger and sadness at the system that devalues her as a woman and as an artist. So, Viola has chimed in about #OscarsSoWhite.

“The problem is not with the Oscars, the problem is with the Hollywood movie-making system. How many black films are being produced every year? How are they being distributed? The films that are being made, are the big-time producers thinking outside of the box in terms of how to cast the role? Can you cast a black woman in that role? Can you cast a black man in that role? The problem isn’t even our pay. You could probably line up all the A-list black actresses out there [and] they probably don’t make what one A-list white woman makes in one film. That’s the problem. You can change the Academy, but if there are no black films being produced, what is there to vote for?”

Davis is not attending the awards show this year, not because she’s boycotting, but ” ‘Cause I’m gonna be on vacation.” But when asked whether she agrees with stars like Tyrese, who have argued host Chris Rock should protest the event, Davis said it’s the comedian’s choice.

“Like I said, the Oscars are not really the issue,” she restated. “It’s a symptom of a much greater disease. But if he does, I hope he takes it as an opportunity to make a statement, a social statement about change. It’s 2016.”

[From People]

I agree with her sentiment about institutional prejudice/racism within the studio system, although I’d like to add two points. One, there are some great black filmmakers and black artists doing extraordinary work, which is why the Oscar snubs are so egregious. Where is Ryan Coogler? Michael B. Jordan? Idris Elba? That’s why are people are mad. Because there were some great artists who were actively ignored. My second point is that the studios need to get better at supporting those diverse artists. Why didn’t Warner Bros spend the money to support Coogler or MBJ for the awards season? Why wasn’t more money spent around Idris Elba?

Here are some additional photos from the ELLE event on Wednesday. Priyanka Chopra looks pretty, but I still think she might need a new stylist. Kirsten Dunst is killing it and if you told me Olivia Wilde is preggo again, I would believe you.




Photos courtesy of WENN.

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45 Responses to “Viola Davis: The problem isn’t the Oscars, the problem is the whole industry”

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  1. jojo says:

    Viola’s right again. People who are being defensive or thinking the word racism is being thrown about too loosely are not understanding how institutional racism works. It doesn’t work out of malice or agenda most of the time-it works simply because those within that institution don’t bother to do anything different and are too comfortable in their position of power to change things.

    I think the funniest thing that could happen come oscar night is if everyone tuned in for the opening monologue, and then turned off the tv so the ratings would plummet from there on out-that would be hilarious.

  2. Dirty Martini says:

    And add her name to the list of better spokespeople than Will Smith and Jada Pinkett……..

    • bns says:

      And how exactly are Will and Jada not qualified to speak on this? We don’t need just one spokeperson for this issue we need as many voices as possible. Will, Jada, and Viola are all doing right by speaking up.

    • FF says:

      People so badly want to come for the Smiths they’re prepared to ride on the back of this when it can absolutely wait. I’m glad they got the number in their haters tho.

      And as said: the more support and voices, the better. It’s not a popularity contest, it’s an issue about the industry that the Oscars provides the best time to tackle.

      Can’t people come for the Smiths in their own time, already? They have a point.

      • morc says:

        The Smiths are boycotting only because Will Smith didn’t get recognition.
        It’s about ego for them.

        Will Smith has made numerous comments on how black people don’t face racism anymore.
        Now they want to call attention to an issue to support themselves.

  3. Lizzie McGuire says:

    I agree with Viola, it’s a small problem compare to the whole industry. As for the Chris Rock thing, c’mon the guy can’t quit he probably signed a contract. I understand that people think is the right thing to do but I feel he can do more by showing up & taking at least a few minutes to talk about the this. I also think that what The Smiths & co are doing is also fine, boycotting it can also help & maybe the Academy & the industry can start listening to the problems they have. Two different ways to approach a problem but it doesn’t mean one is better than the other, I wish people will leave Chris Rock alone.

  4. Marty says:

    I love Viola, but I think she’s only partially correct. Are the Oscars a symptom of a larger issue? Yes. However they should be held accountable for contributing to the problem when they have talent to choose from and don’t.

    • HH says:

      Agreed! I think some people are working within the system to subvert it. Which on one hand is great. On the other hand, I can’t help but to think of Audre Lorde, “You can’t dismantle the master’s house with the master’s tools.”

    • An says:

      There are a lot of good perfomances by white actors that might have not been nominated and have been snubbed, but there aren’t a lot of performances by poc. The problem is that there’s too few performances by poc to chose from.
      I’m not denying that Idris for example should have been nominated.

      • Marty says:

        “The problem is that there’s too few performances by poc to chose from.”

        But just because there are fewer performances to choose from, does that make them less deserving of a nomination?

      • An says:

        @Marty; I didn’t mean it like that, but a few snubs is more justifiable because that ‘s bound to happen and it happens to white actors too.
        But more roles for poc > more chance of oscar worthy performances -> more chances for nominations for poc
        If after all of that the nominations still aren’t more diverse, then it’s completely due to the academy’s ignorance.
        That’s how I see it.
        English isn’t my first language so apologies if some things sound weird/strange. 🙂

      • Marty says:

        No problem An, I meant it more as you are right, but then the question becomes this. Poor explaining on my part as well.

    • seesittellsit says:

      I think the problem is even worse than that: these big studios are now making most of their money on huge serial/franchise stuff like Harry Potter and the Marvel Stuff and even if there are black or Asian actors cast in those roles, there aren’t going to be many. The studios ride on a few blockbusters that ensure that a handful of people get the same roles in 3-4 consecutive pictures. Star Wars, which I frankly thought was boring as hell outside the special effects, gets shown in three screening rooms in the local multiplex, while indies that at least address social issues and real people’s lives, like The Danish Girl and Spotlight, get one room in the beatup old art theater at the edge of town.

      Moviemaking is a business, not a nonprofit. They cast who they think will appeal to the most people (like Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, neither of whose faces I can even bear to look at anymore), in films that they think will bring in the most money even though they aren’t always right. Access to funding for smaller films showcasing real acting talent of any color is really, really hard.

      The Hollywood of the 1930s that brought in stuff that highlighted the horrors of the Depression – gone. You think the BFI is looking today at quirky or socially relevant films like “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” and “Morgan” and “Georgy Girl” and “Look Back in Anger” and “The Spy Who Came In from the Cold”, which I just saw on TCM, with a young Richard Burton and Claire Bloom? It’s not. Talky, black and white, requires attention span, no car crashes, no explosions, no magic, no teenage armies saving the world . . .

      The depressing state of filmdom includes color but goes well beyond it. The only issue is bottom line – which is why so many gay actors refuse to come out of the closet: they know they’ll be culled from certain roles before the sun comes up as the studios believe the public won’t accept an out gay actor in a romantic hetero leading role.

      I can think of at least five high profile actors/actresses that everyone inside the industry knows is either gay or bi, but as long as they go on with their bearding relationships and/or don’t come out, keep getting big roles in big movies.

      The industry excludes a lot of people, a lot of good writing, a lot of thought-provoking films. It was always first and foremost a business, but now it’s built almost entirely on profits from franchises and serials like Potter and Marvel. They’re fun and I like them too in moderation, but they now define the bottom line, leaving little room for talented actors to do something meaningful, and this hits actors and writers and directors of color more. It’s always about the money, only it’s worse than ever.

      • Sixer says:

        I thank you for the mention of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. My all-time favourite. Telly’s as bad. Where’s today’s Cathy Come Home or Boys from the Black Stuff?

      • Cranberry says:


        Thank you.
        So, so right. The whole industry system is corrupted. It’s so cut throat, industry people are only going to support their friends, partners, or projects that they’re associated with even if they weren’t involved with the particular nominated film. A lot of academy voters, say a producer or credited studio exec., are going to nominate a film/actor/director that they do have a connection with for a future film not yet released. It really boosts the odds a film will be successful if it has an Oscar winner or even nominee attached to it. The industry players will do ANYTHING to increase the potential of a film’s success. It’s a profit driven industry and not just for blockbuster films.
        It’s so hard to get investors for a film, and everyone wants assurances that they’ll make their money back. So they always go for the safe bet, the “sure thing”, white, male and award winners/noms. This not only accounts for the lack of diversity, but why we generally see the same actors repeatedly nominated over the years (i.e. Lawrence, Streep, Sean Penn, Bradley Cooper)

        Agree. Can’t bare to look at Lawrence/Cooper and David O. Russell team up again. I can’t believe how little artistic vision Russel has that he can’t think of any other actors to work in his films. It’s all about sticking to the what was successful the first time so lets just keep the same cast for all my movies. Boring. Especially because there are plenty great actresses that would have fit that part (Joy) better than Lawrence, but she’s the IT girl, the BO draw, so they will never cast someone else over her until she stops bringing in the big money.

    • lucy2 says:

      I definitely think it’s a 2 part issue – the industry as a whole AND the Academy itself. Change needs to happen in both.

  5. Don't kill me I'm French says:

    She is the reason’s voice

    • ichsi says:

      Amen. Sometimes you have to spell it out for the slow ones and she just did that very eloquently and inoffensively (imho).

      On the fashion note: Between this dress and the one she wore to the GG I feel like Kirsten has found her style. Girly, elegant goth chic and she totally rocks it.

  6. aims says:

    I back up what Viola is saying. I said it the other day. There is a bigger picture here. It’s absurd to me brilliant black filmmakers out there that are getting overlooked. Idris for example did an amazing job and didn’t get acknowledge. There’s a larger problem here and it’s not just in Hollywood. It’s disgusting and I personally, don’t want to participate in a culture that seems one-sided.

  7. Esmom says:

    Viola is not wrong. Although I think she’s being gracious about the Oscars because I do agree that black artists/filmmakers were indeed overlooked.

    I also think Viola looked the best of all the ladies pictured, although Kirsten’s dress is really lovely.

    • The Original Mia says:

      She’s being gracious. I think she’s tempering what she really feels, but that’s okay because she’s said all she needed to say in the past.

  8. SusanneToo says:

    I agree with her. Two of my favorite actors are Joe Morton and Don Cheadle. JM was so mesmerising in Brother From Another Planet and DC has been great in all I’ve seen since spotting him in Picket Fences. Why haven’t they gotten leading roles? Why almost always playing second banana to a white lead? Can HW only support a handful of A-A leading men? And don’t claim box office – even white stars can’t pull in the audience unless it’s a Marvel or other CGI flick. Even as a non POC I find it frustrating to be constantly offered BCoop or Gosling or Damon or Affleck or XXXX instead of the actors I mentioned. And Michael B. Jordan – you have a young Denzell on your hands. Make use of him, good use. My rant for now.

    • Sixer says:

      Danny Glover. He should win everything.

      He’s been trying to make a film about Toussaint Louverture for YEARS.

  9. wonderwoman21 says:

    I agree with her, although I think that boycotting the Oscars is a good place to start.

  10. censored says:

    Agree with Viola 100% Hollywood has a diversity problem so as a symptom , the Oscars has a diversity problem focusing on not being “honored ” vs widening the width and depth of roles/position for POC / women is rubbing me the wrong way
    Furthermore unlike Will and Jada , people like Viola Davis, Jessie Williams etc speak up about broad concerns all the time not only just when it affects them personally

    • MrsNix says:

      Nailed it. I think the negative response to Jada’s rant was not that people didn’t see the reality of what she was complaining about. It’s that she’s never spoken up about these things unless it affected her personally in some way. Viola is taken seriously because she’s been consistent about these issues of total lack of diversity in film from day one. Nobody’s making fun of Viola Davis on the internet for her statements that are substantively the same. They’re making fun of Jada because she’s abrasive and so transparently self-interested.

  11. Bree says:

    Yasss Viola!! I wish more people would say this.
    There’s no use in pressuring people to boycot the oscars because the oscars isn’t the main issue.

  12. lem says:

    I totally agree with everything she said but I feel like there is one thing specifically about Idris Alba that is not being brought up by anyone— his movie was a Netflix production. I think that the academy and the old-school hollywood/studios do NOT like that Netflix is infringing on not only series but now movie production. I think the lack of nominations for Alba and Beast of No Nation is ALSO about them sending a message to Netflix regarding their “place” in Hollywood.

    • SusanneToo says:

      HW had to adjust to the coming of sound and one day they’ll finally adjust to new ways of distributing films. The streaming shows do seem to offer more diversity.

      • lem says:

        they offer more diversity and frankly better product. i haven’t been a fan of all of netflix productions but a lot of their shows are so much better than anything on network or cable for that matter. i also think there is a lot more artistic freedom on netflix b/c they don’t have to worry about pissing off sponsors.

    • Jayna says:

      People keep saying Idris, who was great and deserves a nomination, but why are they forgetting the main character, Igu? The young actor, Abraham, was the main role in that movie, and the movie was based through his eyes as Igu. He was just brilliant in his portrayal of Igu.

      • lem says:

        I haven’t seen the movie so I was basing it primarily off of what I’ve heard others say (that Idris was amazing and the moving was amazing). I have no doubt the other actors were just as amazing.

    • Scal says:

      THIS. And Netflix lobbied really hard for both Idris and the director, but it was a up hill battle with Netflix being seen as a outsider.

    • MrsNix says:

      THIS +100!!

      So many absolutely wonderful dramas that are offered via streaming services are totally ignored, but that will end.

      The problem may not be laid at the feet of the Academy, but they are definitely part of it. Old school loves old school, and they clearly haven’t come to understand, yet, that the audiences are way ahead of them.

  13. Jayna says:

    This is what I’ve been saying on these threads, though not as eloquently or as well thought out.

    “The problem is not with the Oscars, the problem is with the Hollywood movie-making system. How many black films are being produced every year? How are they being distributed? The films that are being made, are the big-time producers thinking outside of the box in terms of how to cast the role? Can you cast a black woman in that role? Can you cast a black man in that role? The problem isn’t even our pay. You could probably line up all the A-list black actresses out there [and] they probably don’t make what one A-list white woman makes in one film. That’s the problem. You can change the Academy, but if there are no black films being produced, what is there to vote for?”

  14. The Eternal Side-Eye says:

    Because many movies have characters living in some inexplicable nearly white utopia. Now I can admit some places in this world are still monolithic in terms of the ethnicities but if your movie has the characters based in NY and only five Asian, black, Latino or Middle Eastern characters made an appearance in all two hours (and half of them were non-speaking wallpaper roles) then you need to examine that.

    I think a lot of directors honestly don’t even realize that when they cast movies. They build movies off environments they live in and don’t actually realize how many other groups are lacking just on a visual tip. The old joke of, “I have A black friend.” is too damn true for many forms of media. Like poc are the equivalent of Barbie’s menagerie of nameless minority friends she’s sometimes paired with. There to be sassy or spicy or some other nonentity while helping the white girl/guy find love.

  15. Ever says:

    My husband and I have been discussing this over the last few days, ( he’s a filmmaker while I’m not, and understands the industry a lot better than I do) and what keeps resonating with us is that, like what Viola has stated, it’s not the oscars (this time) that’s the main issue: it is Hollywood in general. For us, while boycotting and protesting are great starts to a larger underlying issue, it feels like it’s just pushing that “white savior” narrative that gets complained about in the films that do get nominated. ( I’m not using complained as a negative or sensitive word to push everything under the carpet- it’s a legit issue that most certainly needs to be recognized) but to us, pushing the academy right now seems to push that “white savior” agenda and makes it feel forced on the academy’s part ( assuming their process of voting changes today) and not an authentic and organic change that needs to be happening. Unfortunately, the oscars is a “battle” in a war that needs to be continuously and relentlessly fought.
    My husband said that it seems this “battle” ( the oscars not the overall underlying issue at hand) seems to be lost for diversity this year because everything is already locked in place and would only change to “save face” and not because of a sincere recognition. He also said that the best thing is to continue with production companies and films that encourage diversity and just keep upping the game. He’s an independent filmmaker so it’s easier for him to say and do that, where as in Hollywood it’s a lot more difficult, but as time progresses and the market becomes more saturated with filmmakers and actors and productions that are diverse, it’ll be harder to ignore, it’s just unfortunately not going to happen overnight.

    I’m only speaking from what my husband says with his experience. I only understand a very very very small fraction of what’s happening and I just wanted to share the discussion we’ve been having.

  16. Abbess Tansy says:

    This is so true (@Eternal side eye) It’s about money, power, control and the subconscious fear about the potential loss of that control if the status quo looks like it might shift away from the elite.
    The insularity within the entertainment industry and beyond is so narrow many people won’t even entertain new ideas about potential projects. The industry doesn’t want to seek stories beyond their comfort level. That’s frustrating.

  17. Foile says:

    Carey Mulligan said in some interview (I forgot) concerning the underrepresentation of female directors, that what she thinks she (and other people, who do not hold positions of power in the film industry) can actively do, is to go and see every/ more films made by female directors. I think this is a good idea, to actually go and see these films in the cinema, and not just the big blockbuster/ white male narrative movies. As someone said above, this is a business, and only once these films start making money will there be more made and better distributed.

    • mee says:

      This is very true. Frankly the issue is not all with Hollywood. It’s the market. If the market for movies with PoC were larger, there might be more movies. But unfortunately PoC are the minority – and often these movies appeal only to their particular niche. I’ll admit that I haven’t seen Straight out of Compton. I didn’t even see 12 Years a Slave yet… I did see Selma and was glad to have seen it, but I’m guilty too, for not supporting such films.

      I”m not sure why there isn’t more of a market for movies about women and by women though; women love movies and are 50% of the population!

  18. FF says:

    The Oscars being the culminative event of the industry is the best time to raise the issue.

    Or is it supposed to be raised at each production wrap or producer meeting?

    That or bring it up in every interview: good luck there.

  19. Ferdinand says:

    She is right. What is it being produced?

    But even if there were thing being produced featuring black people of any other “minority”, when was the last blockbuster with primary black people in it? It’s not the industry. People just don’t buy movie tickets for those movies. Many people say they are not racist but do not consume the little it is out there.

    And what it is made and oroduced is not like award bait either.

    Or are you going to boycott the oscars Next year as well when “50 shades of black” is not nominated?

    • Cranberry says:

      Umm, ‘Furious 7’ is one of the highest selling films of 2015 and broke a lot of sales records too. Hollywood folks were caught by surprise that it did as well as it did cause of the same belief you’re subscribing to that poc movies don’t sell tickets. That’s obviously changing. Straight Outta Compton made $200 Million world wide, and in the past Eddie Murphy movies used to top the box office.
      It is the industry and it’s systemic. It’s not that film makers and academy members are racist. It’s the system they’re partaking in that plays to it’s own privilege. The industry is so cut throat and exclusive that it shuts out so many in the film world and therefore most poc in the industry. Money is what calls the shots in the film world and many people working in the industry backup their friends or business partners or actors/directors they’ve got a project lined up with.

      • ferdinand says:

        well, yeah but Furious 7 really cashed on the death of Paul Walker.. a white actor. So there’s that. I’m not saying the other furious movies didn’t make money but 7 got a lot of attention for Paul’s passing.

        And you’re right! Straight out of Compton was a good movie. I enjoyed it and rap music is not my kind of jam.

  20. Bread and Circuses says:

    Gonna be totally superficial and just squee a little over how amazing Viola looks in that dress and hairstyle! So gorgeous!