Monday, March 06, 2006

Brave George Clooney

So, did anyone watch the Oscars? I'm afraid that for the 23rd year in a row I missed the proceedings, the glitter, the excitement, the pateantry and the self-absorption.

With the possible exception of Congress, never does a gathering collect in one place as much attitude and pride as does the Academy Awards. These are, after all, the beautiful people. And if you ask them they will tell you they are smart, witty, charming and brave as well.

The Weekly Diatribe takes note of the acceptance speech of one of the most beautiful people of all.

We are a little bit out of touch in Hollywood every once in a while… but maybe that’s a good thing. We were the ones who talked about AIDS when it was being whispered. We talked about civil rights when it wasn’t really popular. This Academy gave Hattie McDaniel an Oscar in 1939 when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters. I’m proud to be part of this Academy. I’m proud to be part of this community. I’m proud to be out of touch.” – George Clooney, accepting his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor Sunday evening
Clooney’s comments were as interesting for what he didn’t point out about the Hollywood culture as what he did. Take Hattie McDaniel, for example. It is true that, in 1939, blacks were still sitting in the backs of movie theatres – that was still true in much of America when I was a kid in the early 1960s.

Here’s what Clooney left out: while filming “Gone With the Wind”, Ms. McDaniel was forced to don makeup and costume and sleep in segregated quarters. She was treated poorly by other actors and crew working on the film. After winning her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, Ms. McDaniel was relegated to supporting roles for the rest of her long career. Nor did Clooney mention the fact that parts for black actors and actresses in Hollywood films were extremely limited well into the 1950s, a fact that the NAACP protested on a regular basis.

Those wonderful, “out of touch” Hollywood people, in other words, weren’t really so progressive and ahead of the rest of the country after all, a point that can be reinforced by pointing out the fact that the first African American woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress was Halle Berry just a few years ago. This award took place almost 60 years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in major league baseball, a half century after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision forced the integration of the nation’s public schools, forty-five years after Rosa Parks refused to take a seat at the back of the bus, and forty years after the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

As for blacks being forced to sit in the back of theatres, well, happily that practice came to an eventual end, but the Hollywood culture had precious little to do with it. Had they so desired, in fact, major film distributors could have used their market positions to essentially force theatre operators to fully integrate their facilities or face higher rental fees or refusal of service altogether. But no such efforts were made.
The entire article is excellent. Thanks toRight Nation.

1 comment:

Coach said...

Awesome post. Thank you Rougblogger and Right Nation!