Why the Art We Celebrate Matters

I am an artist. If you’ve been keeping up with this blog or you know me at all, you probably already know this. If you’re new, welcome! I am an actor, singer, dancer, and writer. And to sum all that up, I usually just describe myself as an artist.

I love art of all shapes and sizes. To me, art is a reflection of human life and how it feels to be alive. And I acknowledge that in making art, I have a responsibility to tell my story as honestly and openly as I can.

The art we make matters. The stories we tell are so important. And we have a responsibility to make sure everyone’s story gets told.

I believe in the power of storytelling. A power to open minds, foster empathy, and spread love. This is one of the reasons why I am super conscious of trying to only put positivity into this blog space. I believe in trying to always lift people up and look at life from a joy driven place. I think that just makes us and the people around us better and happier. And who wouldn’t want that?

That being said, today’s post is going to go in a little bit of a different direction. Because today I’m feeling a little angry, but mostly I am deeply disappointed in an institution that has the biggest responsibility to storytelling in the world. And that is Hollywood as a whole, specifically the Academy Awards.

I am a huge fan of Oscar season. Every year, I race out to try and see as many nominated movies as I can. I simply love taking in and experiencing good art. Being informed about these films and getting to discuss beautiful work is such a joy to me.

Over the past month, I’ve been going to the movies a lot. I’ve been trying to predict what might end up being nominated for the Oscars. I’ve seen JoJo Rabbit, Knives Out, Richard Jewell, Rise of Skywalker, and Little Women, which became one of my new favorite movies.

My favorite thing about these films is how new and fresh they felt. Knives Out was phenomenal and told a story I had never heard before and brought a new spin on murder mysteries in general. And Little Women was such a fantastic retelling of a classic story with amazing performances and direction.

Needless to say, not only was I saddened, but truly shocked when Greta Gerwig, the director of Little Women was not nominated for an Oscar.

Proving yet again, that Hollywood is continuing to award the same stories. Those that are overwhelmingly told by white men.

If you go to my About Me page on this blog, you’ll see the title “Let’s Tell Stories…” And trust me, I LOVE telling stories. And I love you all so much for reading them! We all have stories that deserve to be told. For that matter, we all have stories that deserve to not only be told, but to be celebrated in all their wonderful messiness.

The Oscars have been celebrating stories for many years. And while they’ve celebrated a wide range of art, it seems that we always come back to similar plot lines. Just glancing at the list of Best Picture Nominees this year, I see a lot of stories about older, possibly washed up white men trying to do something extraordinary. And if I look at the past several years, it seems that this is a common trend. I mean really, how many of the movies that we celebrate follow either this formula or they’re a war movie or a period drama about a famous historical event?

Thank goodness Little Women was nominated for Best Picture. I mean, thank goodness. It was phenomenal and it deserves all the praise. (Seriously I will never stop praising this movie.) But did having the movie with all women protagonists fill your “diversity quota?” (Side note: women driven stories shouldn’t count as diversity, just saying.) And then you have a foreign film nominated for Best Picture in Parasite. Which is awesome! I have yet to see that film, but it is definitely on my list. I just can’t help but feel that this was another movie that was nominated just to fill a quota. Because every other movie out of the nine Best Picture nominees are about white men.

And every single Best Director nominee is a man, four out of the five being white men. Regardless of some phenomenal work by women this year. (Cough, Greta Gerwig, cough cough).

This is not to say that white men don’t have stories and that they don’t deserve to be told. Like I said earlier, we all have stories that deserve to be celebrated. But I really mean we all have those stories. So can we start spreading the wealth please?

The art we make matters. Getting to see portrayals of other cultures and different backgrounds makes us better. It encourages empathy and makes us more well rounded for taking it in. Also, it helps people that may feel alone in their experience. Can you imagine having never seen a story like yours on the big screen and then finally someone high up in the Hollywood decided to give you a voice? Can you imagine how incredible that would feel?

And it’s not like these movies haven’t been made. There were plenty of stories told through the female lens this year. So why aren’t they being awarded? There were plenty of stories told through the lens of people of color this year. So why aren’t they being awarded?

When you celebrate art, you have the responsibility to celebrate all stories. The ones you understand and identify with and the ones that couldn’t be farther from your day to day life. When I saw Moonlight a few years ago, I didn’t identify with it. You know why? I’m not a young, gay, black man navigating those challenges. But I still enjoyed the movie, it taught me something, and it gave me perspective on that story that I didn’t have before.

So I challenge you all, just like I’m challenging myself to go out and experience new art. Go out and take in a story that is nothing at all like your own. Go out of your comfort zone and learn something.

As artists we have a responsibility to tell different stories and celebrate diversity. Over the past years, Hollywood has not taken this responsibility very seriously. But that doesn’t mean we can’t.

Because artists have a responsibility to share new stories, and we, as consumers of art, have a responsibility to take them in. So happy viewing. Happy watching. Happy enjoying.

Enjoy the stories that were told this year, and enjoy the new and fresh voices telling them. Help show the world how much their voices truly matter.


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