Chris Rock, one of the nation’s sharpest black satirists, is now at the center of a storm over the homogeneous nature of this year’s Academy Award nominees. The comedian has said he will host the Oscars when they are held in little more than a month, despite calls for him to boycott the show like some other black actors have announced. Actress Jada Pinkett Smith and her husband Will Smith have announced they will not be attending this year’s Oscars, and director Spike Lee has also declined to attend. Academy Awards producer Reginald Hudlin confirmed that Rock will not be dropping out of the show at the recently held 47th NAACP Image Awards Nominee Luncheon.
At the heart of the controversy is the fact that out of 20 Academy Award acting nominees this year, not one is a person of color. This is the second year in a row that the discrepancy has occurred. David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o and others have expressed frustration, calling for greater diversity in the academy. Actress Viola Davis commented earlier this week that the real problem wasn’t with the Oscars but rather the majority of films being produced do not predominately feature actors of color.
This will be Rock’s second time hosting the Oscars. Almost 11 years ago, Chris Rock became the first African American man to host the Oscars since Richard Pryor co-hosted in 1983. Rock wasn’t necessarily a face many expected to guide the nation through an evening devoted to Hollywood. That year, three black actors were nominated in the acting categories.
Many expect that Chris Rock will address the controversy during the awards ceremony. In fact, sources say that he is currently rewriting his opening monologue to confront the issue head on. Details about the rewrite were not forthcoming, but given the comedian’s track record, it is sure to be memorable. The 88th Annual Academy Awards will air Feb. 28 at 8:30 ET/5:30 PT on ABC.
This would not be the first time the comedian has spoken out on the lack of diversity in Hollywood. A Chris Rock bit broadcast during the 77th Academy Awards starkly pointed out a racial divide at the movies. Then in an 2014 essay for the Hollywood Reporter, the comedian talked about “Hollywood’s race problem,” saying it’s a “white industry.”