Humans are impressive. I’m often in awe of what our species can accomplish. Doctors perform miracles each day, changing the fate of people who would’ve otherwise lived with an expiration date. A stranger on the street offers a simple smile, a helping hand, and unknowingly changes the mind of someone considering suicide. Our most magnificent trait is the ability to change. Change what we see, what we know. Change ourselves and those around us. Any one of us could wake up tomorrow and decide to change everything. Change our mind-set or attitude, our career, hair color, we could even change our name. Every day we are faced with the possibility of change; giving us the chance to seize, redesign, transform, or alter a moment, and potentially change our life or the life of another. This beautiful power is placed into the palm of your hand, and you get to decide to either hold tight and use it or throw it away.
I recently saw Selma. I was affected by this film, left in awe of the performances, stunned by the graphic imagery, angered by the diabolical acts of human kind, and slapped hard with the realization that even after all that struggle, all that pain, all that quest for transformation, not much has actually changed.
I cannot sit here and speak to the pain that many have endured throughout the years, and the suffering many continue to face. I do not know what it is to be judged by the color of my skin, I do not know what it is to have centuries of intolerance, ignorance and hate follow me like a shadow. I will not speak to things I do not know. I can, however, speak to the female experience and the overwhelming misrepresentation of the female, topped off by a complete lack of recognition of talent by Hollywood. This is not a new topic, but it bears repeating – no, fuck that – it bears SHOUTING, again and again.
For those of you who have not seen Selma, please do. For those of you who have, I am sure you were just as surprised and disappointed when the nominations were announced. Selma seemed to be immensely ignored, walking away with only Best Picture and Best Song noms. The film’s star David Oyelowo and director Ava DuVernay didn’t make the cut, and fans of the film were left wondering why. I would like to disclose that I am not here to debate the film and it’s “accuracy” in my opinion that argument is irrelevant, since it is a Movie and not a Documentary, and I’m not here to ignite a racial conversation (though I believe it’s a conversation to be had). I am here to discuss the female side, and assert that this year, Hollywood missed a huge opportunity for change. Oscar voters had the chance to celebrate a woman deserving of accolade, but more importantly, they had the chance to make history by nominating the first African-American woman in the Best Director category. Oscar voters had the power in their hands and they threw it away.
Year after year the Academy surprises and confuses me, and I have often been let down by undeserving wins and obvious snubs. Usually, I can see through the popularity-contest fog and chalk it up to politics or whatever. This year, I accept no excuse or reason; Selma was a fantastic film, with a remarkable performance by Oyelowo, and stunning direction from DuVernay. Bottom line: this film deserved so much more praise than it was given. Moreover, its snub is a huge upset for the female community, and a setback in the quest for change. As I watched this tremendous film, I was filled with emotion, but inside I was cheering – I was proud to be a woman and proud of the accomplishment of DuVernay. She overcame so much to make a film that was important to her (and many), and in opinion, she triumphed.
I refuse to accept this set-back, as should you – we need to demand more from the industry, more from society, and more from ourselves. Let us be the trailblazers of CHANGE, speak up when we are denied rightful praise, and celebrate each others’ wins, forcing others to recognize what’s owed to us, and the female community. Let us put the power back into our hands, hold tight, and use it.