The #OscarSoWhite controversy started up last year but has escalated in a big way since the 2016 Academy Award nominations were released, as the four major acting categories this year include zero actors of color. Prominent Black Hollywood personalities such as Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith have already opted out of attending this year's ceremony, and the outrage has prompted the Academy to take immediate action in diversifying its membership. Many are even suggesting host Chris Rock back out of his job as host, but considering the stage he'll have to discuss the controversy, it's doubtful that'll happen.
Him walking up to the mic in front of Hollywood's elite and a live TV audience of millions is quickly becoming a hotly anticipated event. It already was considering the respect Rock commands as a legitimate comedy legend, but also because he's an African-American man who's both hosted the Oscars before (in 2005) and publicly spoken to Hollywood's diversity problem a number of times. Now with the firestorm of bad publicity the Academy is getting for this year's exclusively White acting races, Rock has a real opportunity to smack it around in its own arena.
Entertainment Tonight reported that, according to Academy Awards producer Reginald Hudlin, not only will the comedian stay committed to hosting, but he'll also rewrite his monologue to account for the outrage that's spiked in the wake of #OscarsSoWhite Part 2.
"Chris is hard at work. He and his writing staff locked themselves in a room," Hudlin told ET. "As things got a little provocative and exciting, he said, 'I'm throwing out the show I wrote and writing a new show.' "
He even went a step further to suggest the Academy is in on the joke, saying, "And, yes, the Academy is ready for him to do that. They're excited about him doing that. They know that's what we need. They know that's what the public wants and we deliver what the people want."
That all sounds good and fine, but if you take into account what Rock's publicist stated soon after, it sounds like Hudlin was just making stuff up. "Regarding Reggie Hudlin's comments about Chris Rock's Oscar hosting duties, neither he nor anyone else speaks for Chris," Leslie Sloane said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.
There's a fair bit of irony in a statement like that coming from someone who gets paid to speak for Rock, but point taken. Sloane followed it up by flatly explaining, "Chris has made no decisions about the content of the show. All will be revealed on February 28th. We will not comment further on this."
So based on statements from two people who aren't Chris Rock, he either will or won't include the outrage over #OscarsSoWhite in his opening monologue when the Oscars taken place next month. The speculation continues, but given Rock's pedigree as both a comedian and a social activist, his words will hit hard. What tools will they employ? Let's just wait and find out.
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