Hopes that this year’s movie awards season, which features a relatively high proportion of people of color in the running for glory, would avoid the contentious race rows that have blighted the Oscars in recent years have proved unfounded.
A movement is growing on social media and online to declare Hollywood as racist because Casey Affleck is being nominated for Best Actor by various awards bodies for his performance in “Manchester by the Sea,” while director-actor Nate Parker is being overlooked for his slavery epic “The Birth of a Nation.”
Parker was acquitted of raping a female student while she was barely conscious while he was studying at Penn State in 2001, while Affleck settled suits alleging sexual harassment from two women who worked on his film “I’m Still Here” in 2010.
Although the two cases are being compared to each other, the two individuals and films are very different cases. Parker’s was a criminal case, while Affleck’s was a civil one. “The Birth of a Nation” has received a less enthusiastic critical re-evaluation since it premiered at Sundance Film Festival almost a year ago, while “Manchester by the Sea” has generated much more favorable reviews.
Since Parker’s film also depicts two rapes, arguably its director’s offscreen history bears more relevance to “The Birth of a Nation” than Affleck’s past does to “Manchester by the Sea.” Yet many are seeing the two films’ differing fates as a sign that the #OscarsSoWhite controversy is alive and well.
John Nolte writing for film website “The Daily Wire” declared: “If this is not racism, if this is not a bunch of white leftists using the stereotype of the scary sexual black predator to signal their own precious virtue, please tell me what actual racism would look like.”
Kevin O’Keeffe of Mic reckoned: “The allegations against Affleck are being treated as footnotes in a man’s march to an Oscar nomination, while Parker’s became a defining, front-page entertainment story. But the difference in treatment almost certainly isn’t a coincidence—and it’s absolutely worth talking about.”