It was arguably a banner year for black films, with major films like 12 Years a Slave, The Butler, Best Man Holiday, Black Nativity and Kevin Hart's Let Me Explain successfully gracing the box office. But there was something missing from this acclaimed mix — black women.
As Oscar season approaches, the clues to who will be nominated for Academy Awards often come through recognition at other shows in the run up to Oscar night, like the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild (SAG) awards. But, as USA Today reports, if the SAG nominations are any indication, only Oprah Winfrey and Lupita Nyong'o (for their roles in The Butler and 12 Years A Slave, respectively), will be in the limelight this year. Let me repeat that: As of right now, there might be only two black women all aglow on that 2014 Oscar red carpet with a nomination to speak of. And that's a reflection of the film industry's piss-poor casting record:
Of more than 250 box office releases so far in 2013, fewer than 50 have featured a black woman in a leading or supporting role. Among the 10 highest-grossing movies of the year so far, only one — Star Trek Into Darkness — starred a black woman. Kasi Lemmons, who directed Black Nativity, is the only black female director who has released a major film this year.
Okay, but there's always television, right? Kind of. Despite the success of writer-producer Shonda Rhimes, and lead actresses Kerry Washington on Scandal and Chandra Wilson on Grey's Anatomy, black actresses aren't often in the cast in primetime line-ups.
Black women are absent from television's hottest shows, including Homeland, Mad Men, Modern Family, Girls, Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones. SNL hasn't added a black woman to its cast since Maya Rudolph left in 2007. (Creator Lorne Michaels said last week that he'll hire a black woman next year).
But it's not all bad news: We've got Angela Bassett and Gabourey Sidibe on American Horror Story: Coven, Nicole Behari and Lyndie Greenwood on Sleepy Hollow, Danai Gurira on The Walking Dead, Margot Bingham on Boardwalk Empire and C.C.H. Pounder on Sons of Anarchy — that's just to name a few. Plus Director of Ava DuVernay helmed an episode of Scandal this year.
Nevertheless, the truth is there could always be more women of color in front and behind the camera.
"This conversation is an old conversation," says actress/choreographer/producer/director Debbie Allen."Unfortunately, we just keep having (it) over and over and over. It's like raising a child that doesn't listen ... We have to keep going over it."
So cheers to more of these important fireside chats, folks.
Image via Getty.