In his searing opening monologue for the 88th Academy Awards—what he dubbed the “White People’s Choice Awards”—comedian Chris Rock relentlessly roasted Hollywood’s racism, in a year criticized for only nominating white actors.
“We want opportunity,” he said. “We want black actors to get the same opportunities as white actors. That’s it.” Watch the full clip above.
It was, in fact, a year marked by stellar performances from actors of color, including Michael B. Jordan, Abraham Attah, Idris Elba, Teyonah Parris, O’Shea Jackson, Ava DuVernay, and David Oyelowo. And Chris Rock, without pulling any punches, called the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences out on it: “If they nominated a host, I wouldn’t even get this job.”
He went on: “Is Hollywood racist? You damn right Hollywood’s racist,” Rock said. “Hollywood is sorority racist: We like you Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa.”
Since its list of nominees was unveiled in January, the Academy has been criticized for its failure to nominate a single minority actor for the second year in a row. The move fueled outrage from celebrities, with some like Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Will Smith refusing to attend this year’s ceremony. There was also an online campaign using the hashtag #OscarSoWhite. (One bright spot: Mexican filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu, who is vying to become the first director since Joseph Mankiewicz to win best director for the second year in a row for The Revenant.)
In response to the criticism, the Academy vowed to change its membership rules to boost diversity among voters. (This could take a while: A recent Los Angeles Times analysis found that Oscar voters are currently 91 percent white and 77 percent male.) The film industry’s diversity problem comes down to, in part, a problem with the creative pipeline, which is largely made up of white guys. Research shows film studios may be throwing away millions of dollars for their failure to embrace diversity.
It was the talk of the night, as actors took to the marathon of preshow red carpet interviews to raise awareness, not just about diversity, but about sexual assaults on college campuses and clergy sexual abuse.
#Oscars: @KerryWashington talks diversity on the red carpet https://t.co/0zFa1B2OwG https://t.co/F9Lyj6yf65
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) February 29, 2016
Lady Gaga talks about rape, her upcoming performance of the #Oscars-nominated ‘Til It Happens To You’ & more: https://t.co/o6imrAC6uQ
— Roman | Lady Gaga (@MisterBroRo) February 29, 2016
Before the event, Rock had no qualms about his willingness to criticize the Academy. Just last week, he took to Twitter:
The #Oscars. The White BET Awards.https://t.co/8qjLR0uysI
— Chris Rock (@chrisrock) January 15, 2016
See you Sunday… #blackout #oscars pic.twitter.com/ZIoG9XqGpl
— Chris Rock (@chrisrock) February 26, 2016