Let’s start from the beginning, shall we? Early Monday, Jada—Will Smith’s wife—announced that her and her husband were boycotting the Oscars after Will failed to be nominated for his work in the NFL drama “Concussion” Last week's Oscar nominations all but shut out actors, writers and directors of color from the main categories, despite several strong contenders (Creed, Straight Outta Compton, Beasts Of No Nation etc.) that garnered resounding praise from both critics and fans. More on that here.
“Maybe it is time that we pull back our resources and we put them back into our communities, into our programs, and we make programs for ourselves that acknowledge us in ways that we see fit, that are just as good as the so-called 'mainstream' ones,” Jada proposed in the video. “Begging for acknowledgement…diminishes dignity and diminishes power. We are a dignified people and we are powerful. Let’s not forget it.” No word if the Smith family millions will be funding such efforts.
Janet Hubert—who since being fired from The Fresh Prince in 1993 has done gotten mostly guest-starring roles on sitcoms save for extended runs on soap operas—posted an immediate and response in an instantly-viral Facebook video of her own. And she read Jada for filth with an effortlessness that probably has all Real Housewives taking notes.
As if the tea wasn’t already blistering, Hubert used personal experience with Will on The Fresh Prince to point out his hypocrisy. “I seem to remember [years ago] saying at option time, ‘You know what Will, you’re the star of the show and we’re doing so well, maybe your influence could help us get a little raise. Like they did on Friends. Like white shows do!’ Your response to me was: ‘My deal is my deal, and y’all deal is y’all deal.’ Karma must be a bitch because now here you are.”
Don’t worry, Hurbert isn't done. She revealed what she really thought of Smith’s celebrated acting skills. “There are those out there who really deserved a nod—Idris Elba was one of them…that man is an incredible actor. You are not. I didn’t think, frankly, you deserved a Golden Globe nomination with that accent, but you got one.”
The confessional style video, in which Hubert slyly assures viewers that she’s not “bitter” just “right,” doesn’t end until she points out that Will and Jada—two of the most famous celebrities in the world—fail to use their influence and connections to lift up fellow "blactors." “You have a huge production company that you only produce [projects for] your friends, your family and yourself. You are a part of Hollywood. You are a part of the system that is unfair to other actors.”
In addition to be thoroughly entertained by Hubert’s pearl-clutching levels of shade and stance, she is not wrong to point out that a working actor—regardless of race—has to navigate system built on exclusivity, prestige and innate discrimination and sexism simply to make ends meet. Boycotting the Oscar could burn bridges that will never be repaired.
To be fair, Jada's proposal to stop glamorizing an award show that refuses to recognize the importance and beauty of all actors and stories, not simply the white ones is absolutely understandable. It was my first knee-jerk response after the seeing audacious snubs last week. If Ryan Coogler or Idris Elba or Michael B. Jordan aren't good enough to be nominated for their deserving work, then why are they good enough to hand out awards to white recipients, host, perform, and bolster ratings for the very institution that fails to validate their talents, hard work or importance? And why should I, a black woman, give my time, tweets and patronage?
There are no easy answers or solutions to any of these complex and nuanced questions or problems that involve broadening the minds and hearts of people who have been swayed by centuries of conscious and subconscious prejudice and ignorance.
The only thing I do know is that someone needs to cast Janet Hubert in their show, because it would be a shame to let all of that fierceness go to waste.
What do you think? Share your thoughts below!
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