Racism in Hollywood

김건희, 서채원, 최윤서l승인2020.03.02l수정2020.03.02 13:48l376호 1면






  ‘Parasite’,  a film by Korean director Bong Joon-ho, won four Oscars and a Golden Globe during the 2020 awards. It was the first time in Korean film history that a local picture achieved such prestigious international recognition and stature. Parasite has also been highly acclaimed by numerous film critics and audiences around the world, winning prominent awards in film festivals around the globe. News that for the first time, an Asian movie landed the grand prize of prestigious movie awards, like an Oscar or a Golden Globe, was seen as a positive step forward in the world of art, thus proving that Hollywood is trying to appraise projects on the artistry of the work itself, rather than simply evaluating it on its cultural or language differences promoting racial discrimination. However, this is not to say that racism is gone from the field of arts. For instance, at this year’s BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) awards, the organization used a publicity poster online that included pictures of colored actors, but excluded them cleverly from nominations for awards. Non-white actors and actresses have been included in the Rising Star and Rookie awards categories, but never in the main acting fields. Aquafina, who is an Asian actress and won the best actress award in a musical comedy at the Golden Globes, won the Rising Star Award instead of one for best acting at this year’s BAFTA. In fact, research shows that 92 percent of the actors nominated by BAFTA for acting since 1943 were white. The controversy over racial discrimination at the awards ceremony is very much a problem. Posts with the hashtag #BAFTAsSoWhite trended on Instagram and the public criticized it as being racist, raising questions about the criteria for BAFTA candidate selection.

▲ "Parasite" is the first non-English film and first South Korean film to win best picture at the Academy Awards.

  In recent years, the art produced by people of color has become a hot topic. They have made a big difference in cultural and artistic circles and have proven significant players in the field. From 2017 to present, the attention paid to artists of color and their work is changing. For instance, Walt Disney Co. has made some significant changes. All actors in the movie ‘Aladdin’ are colored and black actors were cast for roles in the remake of the movie ‘The Little Mermaid’.

  There are also many examples of progress being made on awards in the film industry. Black director Barry Jenkins won an Academy Award for his film "Moonlight," which blends his experience with racism. He proudly won the prize, despite the six crowns of “La La Land”. Also, for the first time in history, a black judge was chosen for the Cannes Film Festival. Spike Lee, a native of the United States, produces work that consistently deals with black/white racism in American society. The Cannes Film Festival said it will set new ground in the film industry by judging the nominations based on fair standards and differentiated eyes. Finally, the latest example of an emerging trend stems from the success of "Parasite". The movie was nominated for various international awards and won many, proving the film transcends the cultural and language differences of color. Kang Yoo-jung, a culture critic at Kangnam University, expressed the significance of the film’s success. She said that winning best picture, best director and best original screenplay, was an unusual occurrence in the film industry making it highly significant to Non-English speaking countries. She also explained that movies are not just about the commercial aspect, but about the ability of directors to complete a film that reaches people in many forms.

  A movement for change in the worlds of film and art is on the rise.  When actor Joaquin Phoenix accepted his award for best leading actor, he used the opportunity to highlight the lack of diversity in the nominations. Britain's Prince William, who also attended the ceremony in his capacity as chairman of the BAFTA, said of the lack of diversity in the British Academy, "In 2020, we are again saying that we should work harder to secure diversity in this field and in the award process. This racism is behind the time and we should recognize and try to change the seriousness of the racism issue." Both speakers drew a lot of sympathy from social media, as well as applause from the attendants at the prestigious ceremony.

  "Parasite" is the first non-English film and first South Korean film to win best picture at the Academy Awards. It is also the first film to win both best international feature and best picture. This noticeable and positive change in the movie field serves as a great indication that a world without any racial discrimination is not beyond our reach. As a result, while the public acknowledges that discrimination in various fields remain, a big driving force for change is also on the rise.

▲ Joaquin Phoenix who pointed out the lack of diversity in the BAFTA. (Photo from EPA)


김건희, 서채원, 최윤서  dankookherald@gmail.com
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