OscarsSoWhite: Chris Rock hammers diversity issue in monologue
Published Sunday, February 28, 2016 9:18PM EST
Last Updated Sunday, February 28, 2016 11:07PM EST
Oscars host Chris Rock came out swinging like Adonis Creed in his opening monologue, delivering a few knockout punches to the Academy for the lack of diversity among its nominees.
"Is Hollywood racist? You're damn right Hollywood's racist," Rock said. He went on to differentiate the kind of racism in Hollywood, saying that it's not "burning cross" or "fetch me some lemonade" racist – just "sorority racist."
Rock also declared the Oscars the "White People's Choice Awards," saying: "If they nominated hosts, I wouldn't even get this job."
The comedian took no prisoners in his monologue, lashing out at the Academy, the movie industry and even the black actors who chose to boycott the awards show, like Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith.
He also defended his choice not to step down as Oscars host, after many called for him to do so in solidarity with the #OscarsSoWhite boycott.
Rock pointed out that there have been many years without a black actor nominated at the Oscars, but in in the past, black people "had real things to protest at the time.
"We was too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematographer. When your grandmother's swinging from a tree, it's really hard to care about best documentary foreign short."
Rock called for Hollywood to create more roles for black actors, so they could have more chances to showcase their talents.
In a video montage spoofing this year's Best Picture nominees, Rock and a handful of other black actors mocked how those films might have been different with a black actor in a key role.
Rock hinted at tackling the diversity issue in tweets he sent out ahead of his Oscar hosting appearance. On Jan. 15, Rock tweeted an ABC promo video for the Oscars, with the caption: "The Oscars. The white BET Awards."
And on Friday, he tweeted a video of television static, along with the hashtag #blackout.
Several prominent individuals in Hollywood, including Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, opted to boycott the show to protest its lack of diversity among nominees.
In a red carpet interview before the show, Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs said her organization has been working for a while to promote diversity within its ranks. "We have been having these discussions and pulling together these initiatives for a while now," she told ABC. "We are going to continue to take action and not just speak."
Kerry Washington defended her choice to present at the show, while insisting she sympathizes with those who chose to boycott it.
"I really respect and actually admire some of the people who are not here tonight. I really get it," Washington said, in a red carpet interview. She went on to say she'd prefer to be part of the diversity conversation, in order to help affect positive change. "I really want to be part of the conversation to make sure that there's institutional change so that we never have a year like this again, so that we can be as inclusive as possible," she said.
Mark Ruffalo also addressed the controversy before the show, saying it's up to Hollywood "liberals" to bring the issue to light. "That's a real issue and I think its time for our country to have this discussion in an earnest way," he said. "It's happening in the criminal justice system, in the education system – it should be happening here in Hollywood."
Though not at the show, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton added her own voice to the #OscarsSoWhite outcry.
Too much talent is being kept on the sidelines. In every industry, we can do and need to do better. https://t.co/DltAsnePpz— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) February 28, 2016
Women, black activists slam Rock
Rock faced a bit of backlash for his monologue on Twitter. Several activists criticized him for saying black people no longer have "real things to protest," as several of those skipping the Oscars were in Flint to protest the city's water crisis.
.@chrisrock - gr8 opening-but there are things happening today that require protest (including the Oscars). We must demand 2 b represented.— Brynne Craig (@BrynneCraig) February 29, 2016
Several people also attacked Rock for mocking the #AskHerMore campaign, which encourages red carpet reporters to ask actresses about something substantial, beyond the designer of their outfit.
Chris Rock was incredible until he bashed #AskHerMore, but otherwise— A. Sam (@SamMaggs) February 29, 2016