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I am defeated. The Guardian has defeated me. I just — I don’t know, man, like, shrug.
“Race storm erupts.” A white actress was nominated for a best actress Oscar. This is a racial injury, because black actresses were also in movies this year, so the white actress stole their nominations. An actress took something that didn’t belong to her, being nominated for the quality of her acting merely because the people making the nomination thought that her acting was good. You can already see the extraordinary seriousness of the situation. But keep watching, because every arrow in the story is about to point somewhere you wouldn’t have imagined it could point. Here’s the Clockwork Orange nut graf, as the newspaper sums up why the controversy runs so hot:
Following the Oscars nominations announcement last Tuesday, Till director Chinonye Chukwu denounced the film industry for “upholding whiteness and perpetuating an unabashed misogyny towards Black women”, and in a lengthy comment piece in the LA Times film critic Robert Daniels wrote: “Although it’s easy to point a finger at Riseborough for taking a slot from Black women, broken systems persist when we focus our ire on individuals … what does it say that the Black women who did everything the institution asks of them – luxury dinners, private Academy screenings, meet-and-greets, splashy television spots and magazine profiles – are ignored when someone who did everything outside of the system is rewarded?”
So it’s a story of oppression, in which the Motion Picture Academy has attacked and harmed black women to inappropriately elevate a white woman, but it’s simultaneously a reverse-image injury of social class: a low-class outsider, a person of poor status, inflicted injury on high-class insiders, who were deprived of the appropriate degree of honor despite participating in “luxury dinners.” The oppressed underclass is the much-pampered insider status group who’ve been denied their proper honors by a low-status oppressor who came from outside and below, grinding the people above her under her racist boot as she, as she — well, shit, I’m lost.
The oppressed had suites at the Peninsula, okay, while the oppressor should just shut up and go back to her trailer park. The white actress was on top of and underneath the black actresses, presumably lacking even a membership at Soho House, oppressing them from a subordinate position. I’m not quite nailing this, but in fairness it’s 2023 and I don’t have a recent brain injury. How could anyone possibly make sense of this cultural moment without having experienced extensive trepanning?
The low-status white oppressor, the actress Andrea Riseborough, was in a movie called To Leslie, which I sort of watched a little bit because I kept passing through the living room while my wife was watching it. It was…quite authentically grim. So. But here, returning to the Guardian, is why the oppressive racial injury of the inappropriate Oscar nomination is so cruel:
To Leslie’s campaign was assisted by two PR companies, Narrative and Shelter, and appears to be self-funded, while Till and The Woman King were backed by deep-pocketed studios United Artists and Sony respectively.
The victims of racist oppression were backed by “deep-pocketed” multinational corporations, while the racist colonizer worked on a movie that paid for its own PR effort. So the oppressed have far more money and status and power than the oppressor, but the oppressor is crushing the oppressed by being much poorer and less powerful. Inside is down, outside is up. The powerless victims were backed by Sony; the powerful victimizers, lacking corporate benefactors, put their expenses on their own credit cards. Did I mention the thing about brain injuries?
The Guardian concludes its funhouse-mirrors-in-print story by warning that Riseborough has harmed her career by being nominated for an award: “No matter what happens, her reputation is being tarnished, whether her campaign did something or not.”
The only comparison that leaps to mind is actual, literal communism, in which the Glorious Vanguard of the Proletarian Revolution competed for the finest summer dachas, and the bourgeois oppressor died in work camps. Riseborough’s example means “someone who did everything outside of the system is rewarded.” She got a lakeside dacha, and she’s not even inner-party!
The oppressed were subject to the cultural oppression of not being given trophies, despite their participation in luxury dinners and magazine profiles. How would you satirize a culture in which that’s a serious argument?
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