The 2016 Oscars saw a controversy when all 20 nominees in the acting categories were white. This led to the famous comedian and actor, Chris Rock being chosen as the host of the ceremony. Chris Rock has been known for his fearless commentary on social and political issues in his stand-up comedy and other appearances. He was expected to address this controversy head-on, and he did not disappoint. His opening monologue tackled the issue of #OscarsSoWhite and proved to be both hilarious and poignant.
But one moment of the ceremony stuck out that night – Chris Rock’s explanation of why he did not beat Will Smith back at the Oscars. In his monologue, Rock joked that he was not upset about not receiving an Oscar nomination that year for his role in the film “Top Five” but was amazed at the outrage regarding the lack of diversity in the nominations.
He stated, “It’s not about boycotting anything, it’s just that we want opportunity. We want black actors to get the same opportunities that white actors get. That’s it. Not just once. Leo gets a great part every year. All you guys get great parts all the time. But what about the black actors?”
Later in his monologue, Rock talked about how the Oscars had been ignoring black talent for decades. He pointed out that blacks only got called to present awards, but not to receive them. He joked, “You want diversity? We got diversity. Please welcome Emily Blunt and somebody whiter – Charlize Theron.”
Chris Rock’s monologue made it clear that diversity was the issue, not just for him but for the entire industry. He questioned why it was that white actors receive so many accolades, while black actors were pigeonholed into stereotypical roles. He stated that more films need to be made for black actors and actresses to take on leading roles.
However, Chris Rock’s explanation of why he didn’t get the Oscar nomination in 2016 wasn’t just about diversity. It was also about the politics of the industry. He explained that Will Smith, who was not nominated that year for his role in “Concussion,” had decided to boycott the ceremony. According to Rock, Smith had asked him to join the boycott. But Rock decided otherwise.
Rock explained that he understood Smith’s reasoning but didn’t think that boycotting was the answer. Instead, he saw the opportunity to use his platform to make a statement. He explained, “He’s (Will Smith) a great actor. He probably should have been nominated. But it’s not about his boycott. I don’t think it’s productive to make a statement by not showing up. That doesn’t lead to any real change.”
Many actors and actresses had followed Smith’s stance, including his wife Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock acknowledged that Smith’s boycott stemmed from his frustrations regarding the industry’s lack of diversity but stated that not attending the Oscars wouldn’t create real change.
He explained, “It’s like all this ‘boycott the Oscars’ thing. They’re upset. Why are they upset? Hollywood has been very good to them. If you want black people every year at the Oscars, just have black categories like Best Black Friend or Best Black Comedian. Just make more categories.”
Chris Rock’s explanation was bold, critical, and unapologetically honest. He highlighted the discrimination that existed within the industry and challenged the notion that boycotting the Oscars would lead to real change.
In closing, Chris Rock’s comments on the lack of diversity in the industry might have been controversial, but they were necessary. He wasn’t afraid to challenge the status quo and bring to the forefront issues that had been ignored in the past. His explanation of why he didn’t beat Will Smith back at the Oscars was more than just about winning or losing but was a cry for change. The industry needed to reflect the diverse landscape of the world it portrayed, and he reminded them of that.