I had to literally rewind my Tivo during the 84th Annual Academy Awards to confirm Billy Crystal's offensive joke about black women in Hollywood. Post Octavia Spencer's Supporting Actress win for The Help, the Oscar host returned from commercial break:
I loved that movie (The Help)... when I saw it, I wanted to hug the first black woman that I saw. Which from Beverly Hills is about a 45 minute drive.
@moviefone: Billy Crystal: Race and old jokes. Yep, this is what you wanted, Hollywood.
@sonshinewiley: Billy crystals comment was both offensive and prejudiced regarding black women in Hollywood! #NoBueno #Oscars
@VanObserver: Billy Crystal makes a really weird #racist joke after Octavia Spencer's win for The Help.
@mytitleguy: RT @patstagepage: RT @MadeFromClay: Yo... did anyone hear that terribly racist joke by Billy Crystal a few minutes ago? yep - the world did.
@jimmymcarthur: A fine way to set the tone Billy Crystal. Follow up a win for The Help with an inappropriate racist joke. #oscars
@Khalv612: Billy Crystal is not funny!!! The racist joke was just uncalled for?!
@thewanderingjew: Will Billy Crystal apologize for the racist joke? #oscars
@JohnTrowbridge: Billy Crystal will kill this buzz with a slightly racist joke #oscars
@Avemarie80: Me too @suzieq23: Was that a racist joke Billy Crystal gave after that great win...... Ughhhhhhh". I thought so too!! Awful."
How were Oscar writers comfortable enough to write a joke like that? A host has a script -- and especially in the case of a big awards show like the Oscars -- there are several "copy check points." Crystal ultimately delivered (he could have refused), but I believe the scriptwriters understood how highly inappropriate that joke would be. But they just didn't care enough to leave it out, and every message has meaning.
It bothers me that none of the writers stopped to think about the feelings of the other black actors and actresses in the room. It bothers me that some in the audience were so de-sensitized that they laughed out loud. It bothers me that no one considered the sensitivity of the situation -- Octavia Spencer had just won an Academy Award for playing a maid, a role she's defended to those who feel blacks are rewarded with Oscar only when their character is subservient/enforces a stereotype onscreen. It bothers me that no one will be accountable for writing such insensitive copy. It bothers me to think about struggling black actors and actresses who fall in love with an industry that lets them down. It bothers me that I'm writing this blog in 2012... that society is still recovering from the damage done by bigots who advocated racial segregation. It bothers me that the Academy would go so far as to emphasize the sentiment that black women are invisible in Hollywood, as far as they're concerned.
While Oscar writers found humor in all this, I didn't get the joke.
This post first appeared on Global Grind.
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