Golden Globe wins are often accurate predictors of who will win Oscar gold a month a later. Although Octavia Spencer's win for best supporting actress in The Help was a great moment for the seasoned actress, many are concerned that it was par for the course in an industry that rewards Black performers for stereotypical roles that make White audiences comfortable. Or, in other words, the acclaim over Spencer and Viola Davis' performances as 1960s maids isn't exactly groundbreaking.
The distributors of Pariah, a coming of age tale about a Black lesbian teenager in Brooklyn, submitted the film for Oscar consideration in six categories. Guardian contributor Mychal Denzel Smith stated in a recent column that he hopes the Academy favors Pariah over The Help for wins. Not only is Dee Rees’ film being praised as brilliant, beautifully written story it also, as Smith notes, it appeals to the liberal reputation of Hollywood, which has been long guilty of limiting the amount and brevity of roles for Black actors . He says, “Hollywood forces us to choose by only handing out quality roles to a few Black actors every other year, and then rewarding the least interesting and most divisive among them…a few nominations for Pariah would be a sign that Hollywood is at least trying to challenge their myopic view of Black people and black art.”
For all of the very public complaints about the limited scope of roles for Black actors and filmmakers, we have yet to demonstrate our appetite for something different via ticket sales. So as we ask if Hollywood is ready for Pariah, shouldn't we also be asking…are we ready for Pariah? Will Black audiences put their money where their mouths are? Or are we just as comfortable with the same 'ol, same 'ol as "mainstream" audiences?