HBO Real Time with Bill Maher and guest Seth MacFarlane
The Oscars are still a month away, but the notable lack of black nominees in any major category -- for the second year in a row -- has incited an outcry and the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. The omission is especially glaring in light of two movies with African American leads that had generated heavy Oscar-buzz: "Creed" and "Straight Outta Compton." None of the leads ended up being nominated.
Many black actors have announced their plans to boycott the Oscar Awards, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which elects the nominees and final awardees, has changed its voting and membership rules to increase diversity.
The issue has also dominated the conversation of pundits across late night television, including Bill Maher, who took a bit of a different turn on the topic. In explaining #OscarsSoWhite, Bill Maher stated, "The dirty little secret is most movies are made now with an eye to the foreign market, and Asians really are racist.” As Deadline reports,
When his guests, including Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane and Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FLA), reacted with surprise, Maher doubled down. “I’m just honest. They don’t want to see black people generally in their movies. The Hollywood executives are, like, ‘We’re not racist, we just have to pretend to be racists because we’re capitalists. We want to sell our movies in China (and) they don’t like Kevin Hart.’ ”
Now, Maher's comments should not merit as much attention as it's getting. He is, after all, a little seen late night T.V. host on a cable network. However, his statements are emblematic of Americans' tortuous relationship with China as American industries increasingly rely on the Chinese market for profitability. There is an undercurrent of resentment and schadenfreude even as companies (and, particularly, Hollywood) aggressively market their products overseas.
Needless to say, Maher's comments do not make logical sense. The Oscars have been white for long before China became a dominant player in the world economy. Further, the Oscars tend to go to so-called prestige films like "Spotlight" that have a minimal audience in China. Given that such prestige films hardly rely on the Chinese market, it would be absurd to say that Chinese moviegoers are affecting who gets nominated for the Oscars.
Whether or not Asians are racist is a different conversation, and wholly unrelated to #OscarsSoWhite. Unfortunately, it seems we should expect to see more blame-shifting and conflation of issues as American continues its tangled relationship with race.