Frankly, I haven’t had much time to pay attention to nominations this awards season. I knew of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Golden Globe nomination, but was unaware of Don Cheadle’s nomination. I also knew that Jamie Foxx was up for Actor in a Leading Role – Musical or Comedy.
Foxx’s nomination adds him to the short list of black actors who have been nominated in the lead actor or actress categories. The most memorable recent wins were for Denzel Washington’s role in “Training Day” and Halle Berry’s role in “Monster’s Ball,” which are seen as dissatisfying to some members of the black community because of their respective characters, especially Berry’s. Not only did her role in the film raise eyebrows, but also Berry is criticized for her light skin and the fact that she is not a true representative of the black community – she is biracial. Hopefully, for Berry at least, her victory can ease the pain of being a Razzy nominee for Worst Actress in “Catwoman” – a Worst Picture nominee.
This year, Cheadle’s Golden Globe loss and Academy Award nomination raise many questions about black representation and the black community’s relationship with the film industry. First of all, despite the clich, Cheadle should be honored just to be nominated. Cheadle has been in many films, but is usually considered a character actor rather than a leading man. “Hotel Rwanda” is an independent film, but it will be interesting to see if Cheadle takes lead roles in future films.
When it comes to nominations and wins, though, there aren’t necessarily fewer black nominees because the Academy is racist, but rather the fact that there are simply fewer black actors on screen – which is a problem in itself. The greater questions become, why are so few parts available for black actors and why are so few African Americans in visible and lead roles? If there were more African Americans in films, the Academy would presumably have a greater number from which to choose.
Although it is certainly possible – and perhaps even probable – that members of the Academy or even Hollywood are racist, perhaps above all, they’re simply poor decision-makers. As a white female, I am often upset at the winners they choose. For example, “Titanic” was a blockbuster, but was it the best film of the year? I doubt it. It may have just proven that size really does matter after all.
Furthermore, one might wonder what a satisfying win for the black community would be. Both Foxx and Cheadle are up for the Academy Award for best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. Can the black dramatic actor win over the black entertainer? What is the “best” image of the black man? Does the black Academy Award winner have to portray a positive image of black people? Only Oscar knows.
Reyhani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.