The Corner

SAG-ing Racism

The Screen Actors Guild awards last night were essentially uneventful, except for two interesting points. First point: Jean Dujardin beat George Clooney for his performance in The Artist, which I hear is stunning. I’m sure he’s better than Clooney, mainly because Clooney is one of the more boring actors on the planet.

Second point: Viola Davis made a speech about racism after winning her SAG award for The Help: “The stain of racism and sexism is not just for people of color or women. It’s all of our burden,” she said. “I don’t care how ordinary you feel, all of us can inspire change, every single one of us.”

Hollywood cheered her, but in a world where racism is hardly the top item on the list of pressing issues — imminent civilizational collapse, anyone? — her speech seemed over the top. It’s also by rote, since Halle Berry gave exactly the same Oscar speech years ago.

Except that in Hollywood, racism’s not off the table yet, for three reasons.

Reason #1: Hollywood loves racism as a theme. It makes them feel superior to the rest of the country, those hicks in the sticks whom they’ve never met and who may just as well be walking around wearing their bedsheets. Hence Crash.

Reason #2: It’s a convenient crutch to defend President Obama. Yes, this is a real concern for those in Tinseltown.

Reason #3: Racism is actually a relevant charge in Hollywood, where minorities are tremendously underrepresented, as virtually everyone in the industry agrees. But neither Davis nor the mainstream Hollywood establishment (except for ultra-militant Spike Lee) talk about racism inside Hollywood.

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