The failure of the Academy Awards to honor Angela Bassett comes as no surprise to many

For black people watching the 95th Academy Awards, there wasn’t much chance for surprises. We knew there wouldn’t be a black winner for Best Picture, Director, Best Actor, Best Actor, and Best International Picture because on nomination morning, when the primary drama took place, the Academy failed to nominate The Female King, Saint Omerthe Up to — to almost guarantee the few remaining sacraments reserved for the actual ceremony could only deliver disappointment.

How often would Will Smith, last year’s disgraced Best Actor winner, be slapped King Richard, to be used as a punch? Would there be any mention of the Andrea Riseborough controversy? Could any of the few Black nominees — Ruth E. Carter for costume design, Camille Friend for makeup and hair, Tems, Rihanna and Ryan Coogler for song, and Angela Bassett for best supporting actress , all for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever — take home an Oscar?


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Any hopes were quickly dashed: Only Ruth E. Carter—the first black woman to win two Oscars—was honored. A despondent Bassett, in possibly the biggest upset of the night, lost out to Jamie Lee Curtis for her role as the night’s biggest winner Everything Everywhere Simultaneously.

Curtis achieved the victory while riding a wave of adoration over her nearly 50-year career. Bassett was similarly in the “she’s due” category. But with both shows widely embraced by critics and audiences, the career narrative only worked for the former. While it’s unfair to say that white performers usually succeed with such a narrative (recently, Glenn Close, Amy Adams, Michael Keaton, and Sylvester Stallone have failed with this line of attack), black women can never seem to use the same resonance. nostalgia.

The problem is not limited to Bassett’s loss. It is the fact that Black’s aspirations, reduced to a small hill of crumbs, were pinned only on Bassett and Carter in the first place.

The mere mention of it The Female King and Up to it was treated as an olive branch, a consolation for half-breed-driven snubs. Smith’s slap was used for a series of petty, embarrassing jokes that were harsher than Chris Rock’s stand-up special (the actual person who was slapped). Host Jimmy Kimmel couldn’t go a second without making a joke about Smith. With so few black nominees and winners, the continued elevation of last year’s low level of one black winner to this year’s largest showing of black talent presented a curious dissonance for an Academy once again fending off anti-black charges.

Neither last night’s grim toll for black people (although it was an inspiring and historic night for Asian representation) nor the campaign strategies leading up to last night’s ceremony were ever fully acknowledged during the broadcast. Even so, remnants of them could be seen in categories where check-boxing pits one person of color against another to take or share a point or two.

It shows in the lack of imagination to envision categories where the predominant skin color of the candidates is not white (the supporting actress was by far the most diverse). It is the inability to think that a courtroom drama featuring two Senegalese women, or a biopic about a black mother and Civil Rights leader with no black trauma on screen, or a historical epic centered on an African women’s army are not “universal” » stories based on exquisite craftsmanship and skillful care.

Bassett, I’m sure, will be fine. She is a rich, accomplished actress. And it’s dangerous to overvalue yourself in an awards show tailored to the elite. Still, I can’t erase the visceral tightness I felt touching my heart as a determined but hurt Bassett – decked out in a regal and sophisticated purple gown – tried to keep her cool when she didn’t hear her name read.

Perhaps because her loss is a perpetuation of the lie Hollywood often tells: It’s meritocracy. if one pays his dues, he will receive his just rewards. Similar to The Female King‘small Veteran director Gina Prince-Bythewood, Bassett has followed the rules. Traveled through the 1990s – starred in classics from Malcolm H in her Oscar-nominated series as Tina Turner What does love have to do with it? — then turned to difficult roles in difficult films, before returning to television in american horror story privilege.

Never the pro, she never gave a lousy performance, even when the material was less than her talents demanded. In the narrative of “they’re due,” a performance like hers Wakanda Forever, along with her track record as one of the great black actresses of her generation, should have secured her a win. But he didn’t.

And now that the ceremony is over, the Academy can finally move on from the slap. It can advertise their well-deserved achievements Everything Everywhere Simultaneously in an attempt to capture their shortcomings elsewhere. Outwardly he will pretend to fight morally with the half-breed, at best offering superficial changes. It will surprise even less, but disappoint once again. The only questions left to be answered between now and next year are whether 2024 will be any better — and whether we should even care.

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