In light of the recent Oscars #Ohsowhite campaigns and views, Sneha Gray writes that racism or colourism and perception of beauty in the media is not as clear-cut as black or white and that this trend exists not just in Hollywood but movie industries across the Globe.
Growing up as a child in Southern India it was made clear to me that I would never be considered exceptionally beautiful or stunning…No one needed to overtly say it…It was just there…the rectangular box at home constantly had moving images of white and/or fair skinned people, fairy tales stories about characters like Snow White, and tips on how to be “fair and lovely”. I remember auditioning for a school play once only to be told by a teacher that another girl that was so “fair and lovely” was chosen for the part.
As a tom-boy child I loved playing cricket and soccer. This also meant that the harsh Indian sun darkened me considerably. I remember being told by well-intentioned people that I would never find a nice guy or be respected if I was dark. To be fair to them, in the world we lived in then (and perhaps now too), it was probably true. I remember trying to remove the tan by trying to scrub out the dark skin tan under the shower in the hope that scrubbing hard with soap will remove the dark tan. More than racism, I call it colourism. This exists in most media industries, not just in Hollywood but also in Bollywood and other film industries across Asia and the globe.
While beauty is only skin deep, its human nature to be the best we can be and that’s a good thing. It’s important to look and feel good and be fit to the best of our ability. But when we’re told either by words or deeds constantly by the film industry that fair or white is the ONLY way to be beautiful or talented and successful, then it becomes an issue.
Following the 88th Oscars just gone two strong thoughts prevail: On the one hand are those that suggest that there needs to be more variety and diversity of actors; the other group think its political correctness gone wrong and that if white actors performed better they should win the award.
While I agree with those with the latter view that the best person should win the award regardless of what their skin colour is, the point this group fails to realise is that if more talented, skilled and just as visually presentable darker skinned actors are given the opportunity to be cast in lead roles then more of them will be able to win the award. Proponents of this view, myself included, are not suggesting that the pendulum should swing the other way to say that ONLY dark-skinned is beautiful or talented, but that there would be balance so people of all skin-tones who are good actors and suit the role can have equal opportunity to be successful.
Hollywood has boldly taken a stance at changing negative perceptions about various social issues. Perhaps it’s time for the Academy to take a stance against racial prejudice or prejudice based on colour. If Hollywood takes a lead then perhaps other film industries like Bollywood will change their biased attitudes towards people that are darker skinned. For instance, Bollywood and North India is still very biased against darker skinned people. Indian media do not hesitate to put down Hollywood and blame them for bias against Indian actors, but fail to realise that in their own right they put down the darker skinned Indian actors who are equally beautiful and fit and just as talented.
The Indian film industry is just one example of an Asian film industry that is biased against darker skinned people and actors. Many other Asian countries like China, Philippines and Thailand have been criticized about the same issue.
As long as the world exists there will always be some of us that are better looking than average; sing better than average; and act better than average. For instance, personally, I may never look as aesthetically presentable or elegant as Cate Blanchett or Brie Larsen but there are many darker skinned girls that are just as beautiful and talented and can win the Oscar if they are only given the right opportunity.
Equally, it’s not fair to blame every white actor or singer as being racist or biased. Unless you are in a situation it’s impossible to understand how the other person feels. Now that the issue is out in the open perhaps Hollywood can take the lead towards making this necessary social change where all men and women regardless of colourtone can have equal opportunity.
It’s easy to brush aside the issue and say it’s not that big a deal. However, Until this happens, there will always be subtle racism or colourism worldwide and girls like me will still be trying to scrub hard under the shower to wipe away our tan.
Come on Hollywood! Take the stand and make a difference.