How Black Lives Matter is impacting entertainment

Source:AFP Published: 2020/6/14 17:28:41 Last Updated: 2020/6/14 16:28:41

An aerial view of Hollywood Boulevard painted with the words "Black Lives Matter" as protests continue in the wake of George Floyd's death on Saturday in Los Angeles, California Photo: AFP

In the few short weeks since the death of George Floyd at the hands of US police, the reinvigorated Black Lives Matter movement has rocked the entertainment landscape.

We look at some of the most dramatic changes it has sparked, from the temporary withdrawal of Gone With the Wind from HBO Max to a procession of performers apologizing for their depictions of black characters.

Apologies and removals

US television reality show Cops, in which the cameras went on patrol with police, has been permanently pulled by the Paramount Network.

The show - a small-screen institution which had been broadcast continuously since 1989 - had been long criticized for glorifying macho policing and stirring fear of crime.

A swathe of cult comedy sketch shows have also been removed by some streamers and broadcasters. Little Britain was dropped by its makers the BBC as well as from Netflix, while two other British shows, The Mighty Boosh and The League of Gentlemen have also disappeared from the US streaming giant.

Four mockumentaries by the Australian comic actor Chris Lilley, of Summer Heights High fame, are also no longer available on the service, with speculation that it may be over his depiction of black, Tongan and Chinese characters. 

Little Britain creators David Walliams and Matt Lucas had earlier admitted that they had regrets over the show. 

"If I could go back and do Little Britain again, I wouldn't make those jokes about transvestites... and I wouldn't play black characters," Lucas said.

Another British comic, Leigh Francis apologized last week for caricaturing black stars in his Bo'Selecta show in 2002.

"I guess we're all on a learning journey," he said before Britain's Channel 4 pulled it from its streaming service.

Spotlight on black stars

As well as quietly dropping some shows, Netflix and streaming rival Amazon are also promoting black talent.

Netflix created a special Black Lives Matter section this week of films and documentaries so viewers can "learn more about racial injustice and the Black experience in America."

"When we say 'Black Lives Matter,' we also mean 'Black storytelling matters,'" it tweeted.

The section includes documentaries, films and series from the Oscar-winning Moonlight to the campus-set series Dear White People.

Amazon Prime has its own section called "Black History, Hardship & Hope," with films including Just Mercy starring Michael B. Johnson and Jamie Foxx based on the true story of a black man appealing his murder conviction.

HBO Max meanwhile said they pulled Gone With the Wind - one of US President Donald Trump's favorite films - because of its "racist depictions" that were "wrong then and are wrong today." 

But they plan to make it available again alongside a discussion putting it in its historical context.

Books and music 

Books by black authors, or dealing with racial issues - like sociologist Robin DiAngelo's White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism - have also shot up the bestseller lists.

The Booker Prize-winning Girl, Woman, Other by British-Nigerian novelist Bernardine Evaristo is currently topping the British list, while Reni Eddo-Lodge's Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race is becoming the fastest selling nonfiction title at British bookshop chain Waterstones even though it was published three years ago.

The catch-all musical term "urban," which has been applied to rap, hip hop, R&B and other "black" genres, is also being questioned. 

Republic Records, a Universal label that is home to the Canadian stars Drake and The Weeknd, was the first to stop using the word, with the Grammys following their lead by replacing its "urban music" awards section with "R&B progressive." 

Oscars care

Hollywood's motion picture academy will introduce new eligibility rules to boost diversity among Oscars nominees under a raft of new measures announced Friday.

The move comes after years of criticism over a lack of diversity among the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' members, and among the Oscar nominees and winners they select.

"To ensure more diverse representation," a new task force will be set up "to develop and implement new representation and inclusion standards for Oscars eligibility," the organization said in a statement.

The measures will not affect films in contention in 2020.

The Academy did not give any details about the new rules, but said the changes are intended to "encourage equitable hiring practices and representation on and off screen."

It will also host a series of panel discussions on diversity, including a talk hosted by Academy governor Whoopi Goldberg on "the lasting impact of racist tropes and harmful stereotypes in Hollywood films."

Since 2015 and the #OscarsSoWhite campaign, the Academy has made concerted efforts to broaden its membership.

The annual intake of new members reached 50 percent female for the first time in 2019, while non-white membership has doubled in five years.

But less than one-third admitted were people of color.

"To truly meet this moment, we must recognize how much more needs to be done, and we must listen, learn, embrace the challenge, and hold ourselves and our community accountable," said Academy President David Rubin.

Among other changes agreed at this week's governor meeting, the best picture category will have a mandatory 10 nominees from 2020.

Currently the category has a fluctuating number between five and 10 contenders each year.

No decision was taken on the timing of the Oscars ceremony, following reports that its February 28, 2020 date is expected to be postponed due to the pandemic. 

Newspaper headline: Time for a change

blog comments powered by Disqus