For a second straight year, #OscarsSoWhite—a hashtag created by writer April Reign—trended on Twitter following the announcement of the Academy Award nominations in January. Why? Because for a second straight year, not a single actor of color had been recognized.
Although some celebrities plan to boycott the Oscars, Chris Rock—who was announced as 2016's host back in October—will carry on with his emceeing duties. That said, he's expected to directly address the issue of Hollywood diversity in the material he'll perform at the ceremony, which he called "the White BET Awards" in a tweet posted last month.
For a preview of what Rock might cover, you need only to revisit his opening monologue from the first time he hosted the Oscars, back in 2005—a routine that was considered uncomfortably edgy at the time, although more for a (pretty innocuous, in retrospect) dig at Jude Law than his frank discussions of race and the movie industry.
The 77th Academy Awards saw four black actors receive Oscar nods (reminder: that's one, two, three, four more than we have now, 11 years later), a remarkable fact that Rock called out at the top of the show: "We have four black nominees. It’s kind of like the Def Oscar Jam tonight." Those nominees were Sophie Okonedo, Don Cheadle, Morgan Freeman, and Jamie Foxx (nominated twice, for Ray and for Collateral). Two of these performers would win: Foxx was crowned Best Actor for Ray and Freeman Best Supporting Actor for Million Dollar Baby.
Later, Rock riffed on the state of movies produced for black audiences:
At least they make movies for white people to enjoy. Real movies with plots, with actors, not rappers. With real names, like Catch Me If You Can, like Saving Private Ryan. Black movies don’t have real names. You get names like Barbershop. That’s not a name, that’s just a location. Barbershop, Cookout, Car Wash. They’ve been making the same movies for 40 years. You know Laundromat’s coming soon. And after that, Check-Cashing Place.
In a hilarious pretaped segment, Rock—operating on the premise that the Academy is out of touch—interviewed African-American patrons at the Magic Johnson Theater about their favorite films of the year. The typical Oscar bait didn't get much love from these moviegoers, but the Wayans brothers' White Chicks proved to be irresistible.
We can't wait to see what the returning host has in store for this year.
Join us on Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. ET as Fusion presents the first-ever All Def Movie Awards, which will celebrate diversity in motion picture entertainment. Hosted by Tony Rock, the awards will include Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and other categories such as Best Bad Muh F**ka, Most Helpful White Person, and Best Black Survivor. Tune in to Fusion’s cable network, or watch the stream on Fusion.net, Facebook, and YouTube.
Molly Fitzpatrick is senior editor of Fusion's Pop & Culture section. Her interests include movies about movies, TV shows about TV shows, and movies about TV shows, but not so much TV shows about movies.