MISS DASH AND THE ACADEMY
An analyzation of The Academy and Dash’s brand of elitism
This week, the Academy parodied #OSCARSSOWHITE with a segment meant to cause a stir/spark a reaction, but was met with…silence. Cut to Stacey Dash (co-star of Clueless) being jokingly appointed as the new director of diversity at the Academy Awards. Passed off as a tongue-in-cheek joke, it was obviously meant as a huge fuck you to the many people who were rallying for better representation in Hollywood, including actors and film buffs who have watched people of color only get nominated for playing the roles of maids, slaves and gangsters year after year, decade after decade.
Although this was a “parody” cameo, part of a joke, it is still important to analyze Dash, her role in this, and to examine her motivation behind the statements she made about BET, diversity in Hollywood and of course her tired spiel “that there should be no Black History Month”. Lets backtrack and rewind to the events leading up to #OscarsSoWhite and the 2016 Oscars, one of the most white Oscars of all time.
OSCARS SO WHITE
Back in January, celebrities such as Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith and even Barrack Obama denounced the lack of diversity in the entertainment industry. Obama stated“As a whole, the industry should do what every industry should do, which is to look for talent and provide opportunity to everybody.” during a White House interview with KABC. “I think the Oscar debate is really just an expression of the broader issue of ‘are we making sure that everyone gets a fair shot?’”
Oscars So White was a response to the 2016 Oscar Nominations, which received many complaints due to their lack of minority nominees. Even worse, the previous year all the nominees were white.
This has led to Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett and many others calling for a boycott of the oscars.
Many news outlets gave attention to this story, including MSNBC, CNN and naturally, Fox News.
WHITE AMERICA’S BLACK FRIEND REARS ITS BLUE EYED HEAD
And enter Stacey Dash. The last time we saw Miss Dash, it might’ve been on aVH1 original program called Single Ladies, which was so poorly written and so glossily shot that I thought I was watching Cinemax without money shots.
You may remember her in the 2003 music video It “All Falls Down” by Kanye West, and thought in passing “gee, ain’t seen her in a long time”.
Miss Dash had not been relevant for a while. She probably saw the Academy Awards cameo as an opportunity to get publicity, as every racist white Americans’ friend they bring out to verify stereotypes and beliefs they have about racism.
I mean, don’t those people fucking love Fox News?!
Back in January, Dash guested on Fox News and said said “either you want to be segregated or you want to be integrated”. Dash went on to criticize award shows such as BET stating, “if white people did that, they’d be up in arms,” failing to realize that the BET awards is a product of creating more opportunities for black performers to be recognized in a world where white privilege exists.
Honestly, I feel sorry for Stacey Dash. She’s most famous for the 1994 cult classic film Clueless, where she played Cher Horowitz’s sidekick Dionne. It was the 90s, and the beginning of whites thinking that having one token black friend was a way to be absolved for their white guilt, racism, and likely as a way to avoid actually having to have black friends.
It is my theory that Stacey Dash negatively internalized her status as black sidekick — her pigeon-holing role that typecast her forever — preventing her from becoming a “leading woman”. She seems to have developed a hatred for her black peers, especially those with a more militant bent or ones willing to take a stand, speaking out against racism, lack of diversity and those who amplify the lack of representation of blacks and POC in Hollywood.
For Miss Dash, for reasons she herself likely isn’t truly cognizant of, found more safety with elite whites in hollywood, happily and airily joining them as their token. She must have decided there were no perks in joining forces with black actors and filmmakers’ working towards change. Her light complexion, her “patrician” nose, her light-colored eyes gave her a unique advantage in siding with wealthy white hollywood elites — she can be their patron saint of “but we DO have a black woman, look, here she is!” without having to do too much code-switching. For her, she may feel she is helping be the face of black women when she is the only one on the stage or at the party. For them, they can count on “Stacey Dash Barbie” whenever they need to show the world that they do in fact have one black actress/friend; but because she is so light-bright-damn-near-white; she won’t offend those amongst them who can barely hide their racism behind tight, fake smiles.
Her situation, her choices, and the way Hollywood happily parades her around as “their ‘girl’” brings to mind two conflicting beliefs that continue to foster a dichotomy within the black community.
THE TALENTED TENTH V. BLACK SEPARATISM
The term, The Talented Tenth, coined by northern philanthropist and made popular by W.E.B Dubois; describes a group of exceptionally bright and gifted African-American (at that time “negroes” ) men who were going to uplifted the black community. This idea is problematic because it suggests that the black community should adopt an elitist culture.
It is also further problematic because it is a way for whites in power to use the false premise of “White Supremacy” to fool black america into thinking that they are protected against racism. For example, by hiring, electing or (in Miss Dash’s case) bringing out the token black Fox News correspondent and you are inured and protected from black people calling you out on your lack of diversity or criticizing you for racism.
The term Black Separatism refers to the movement to create separate institutions for people of African descent in a society highly dominated by whites. This relates to the entertainment industry because while there are many talented performers of color and more are being given roles, there is still a dearth of opportunities for people of color behind the scenes (directors, writers, producers, etc.). Please, don’t remind me of 2014’s year of the black director. I was extremely excited for this year where many black filmmakers and actors were recognized. However, I was positive the Academy would see this as an opportunity to distract viewers, and go back to celebrating tokenism by exhibiting a sheer lack of diversity.
Black Separatism relates to what actress Gabrielle Union explained in response to Stacey Dash’s comments, “If you don’t see yourself reflected in mainstream awards you tend to make your own. Until there is no longer a need for that, I celebrate the Almas, the same way I celebrate the Country Music Awards…the same way I celebrate the BET Awards and the (NAACP) Image Awards, which we’ll be at in a couple of weeks. The more we focus on inclusion and a true representation of this country, I think that the crazy lady will have less to say”.
We can’t wait for white supremacist Hollywood to acknowledge the many talented black people who are a part of the film industry. We will have to create our own opportunities for us to be recognized and acknowledged; and we will have to fight outdated institutions such as The Academy, so they realize that we’re serious and that they’re cute little accessory Stacey Dash and her jokingly saying “Happy Black History Month” will not be taken laying down, with a polite clap and a docile laugh.
Fuck Oscars, I knew you were out of touch, but I didn’t know it went this far, this deep, and was this far-reaching. When you proposed this segment, you couldn’t possibly have been so clueless as to have been unaware that it was a slap in the face to black people everywhere and black people in Hollywood in particular. Do you guys even use Instagram or Tumblr? I bet you just started using Facebook, because at this point you’re like the old relative who keeps on annoying people with how out of touch you are; but we keep you around because you foot the fucking bill of the entire Film and Entertainment industry. I’m happy for Leonardo Dicaprio and I know that he waited a long time for that win, and I’ma let you finish, but…did you really think that was going to distract us from your flagrant lack of diversity at the oscars? Guess what, if you guys don’t get it together, your ratings are going to continue to slump.
Oh and, Oscars, when you have finally committed ratings suicide and there’s no longer a pulse? Don’t come back to black Hollywood hoping we will be here to resurrect your awards show; we’ll be very busy with our own movies, awards ceremonies, and the cookouts and after-parties that you’re not invited to attend.