Hollywood doesn't just ignore you if you're black, it also removes you if you're gay. Charming right?
The fact that for a second year running there are no actors of color up for an Academy Award is not a coincidence, it's design. It's a long-running prejudice that values white art more than any other. But the lack of Oscar diversity doesn't end there. Next month will see the 88th ceremony take place, and for the 88th consecutive year, the Lead Actor award will be handed to someone we all know to be straight. You'll also see three other heterosexual actors win awards this year. Hollywood doesn't just disregard black people, Hollywood disregards difference.
In 88 years, only one person who has been openly part of the LGBT community has won an acting Oscar (props to you Linda Hunt). Other gay and lesbian people have won awards, but they have been coy, or closeted or silent on the matter at the time of winning. In fact, each of those who were subsequently open about their sexual identity went on to never win again. Some incredible talents, from Jodie Foster and Ian McKellan to older stars like Brando, yet here, queer and with an Oscar, dear, is yet to be a reality.
The Academy Awards has consistently rewarded people for playing LGBT parts, usually telling stories of LGBT struggles -- the disease, prejudice and political intolerance that community has endured -- yet LGBT actors are left behind every time. To paraphrase Viola Davis' epic Emmy speech, you cannot win awards for roles that aren't there. Tom Hanks, Hilary Swank, Sean Penn, Jared Leto -- those actors and all the others played their parts beautifully, but if a community has been persecuted throughout history, and a mass audience now wants to be entertained by that pain, why can they not be the ones to tell their story, and the seek the rewards for doing so? Even this year, Eddie Redmayne is fantastic, but what a moment it would have been to see a trans woman play that part, and maybe win an award in the process.
You don't cast people in a role because they are gay, or trans, but it's naive to the point of ignorant to suggest no gay male actor could have added the emotional nuance and represented that part of history with the same level of care as Tom Hanks did in Philadelphia. We are, after all, talking arts -- it's not exactly an area shunned by the gay community. Part of the problem, of course, is movie makers want to cast a star, and there aren't gay or trans movie stars that guarantee box office gold, and god help you if you're an ethnic minority LGBT actor (a whole other issue to be unpicked at another time), but if the mission is not to bring in a billion dollars at the box office, then why not lean on authenticity to take you through?
People of color, LGBT people, disabled people and people who span all three, deserve recognition. It's not asking for an elevated status, it's just asking for the opportunity. If Hollywood learns anything from this current crisis of public opinion, then let's hope it learns whether the Academy members want it or not, people want progress. Viola was correct, you cannot win an award for a role that is not there, here's to being hopeful that in 2016, the roles are there, and the Academy pays attention.