African American Influence in Hollywood

Lauren Holmes, Staff Writer

With the Oscars next week, the nominations have come out. Movies such as American Sniper, Boyhood, The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, Birdman, Whiplash, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Selma have been nominated for one of the biggest award of the night: the best picture award. Out of this list of movies, only one features a black leading character. The nominations for Best Actor in a Leading Role include Steve Carell for Fox Catcher and Bradley Cooper for American Sniper. What do all the actors have in common? None of the nominees are black, and people have seemed to notice. There has been outrage due to the fact that Selma’s lead David Oyelowo wasn’t nominated. So what is the audience’s reaction? He among several other leading African American actors, have not been nominated for a single award in the upcoming 2015 Oscars.

This begs the question : Has it always been this way? Have African Americans always been under represented in movies and awards? A study in 2013 by BuzzFeed stated that in the years 2007-2012 top movies only featured 12.4% black people with speaking parts compared to a whopping 75.8% of white people. 81% of movies do not feature an African American cast, storyline, or leading black star. Why is this? The movie awards had seemingly taken a step forward in 2014 with the cover of Vanity Fair’s annual Hollywood Issue. The issue featured six people of color with actress Lupita seemingly leading the picture. This year’s issue features Oyelowo as the only person of color in the picture standing behind his colleagues.

In the past ten years, the influence of African Americans in the media has increased even if it is slow progressing. As leading directors such as Steve McQueen who was behind 12 Years a Slave and Malcolm D. Lee who was behind The Best Man Holiday make leading movies, African Americans are beginning to get a leading foot in Hollywood. Hopefully in 2015, there will be further innovations in Hollywood.