Imagine this: You and your friends are in high school. As a reward for the hard work throughout the year, there is an annual dance that your friends are invited to. You worked just as hard, if not more than your friends, to attend the dance as well, yet you have never been invited. This has been the third year you have attended this school and yet you are still not invited. Every year you are told, “You haven’t worked hard enough to attend.” You cannot justify this at all, and it infuriates you. Then the host of the dance makes fun of your successes, your anger at this problem and other people in the same position as you. What makes you any different from them? Why is this host making fun of a problem that has been happening for years? How dare he? This scenario is a representation of what Jimmy Kimmel said on his show, responding to Jada Pinkett Smith's protest against the Oscars.
The Academy Awards show celebrates achievements in American film. For years, the majority of people who win this prestigious award have been Caucasian. Jada Pinkett Smith and a few other actors protested in January using the hashtag #oscarssowhite to bring attention to the lack of diversity in the entertainment industry. Out of the 88 years the Oscars have been celebrated, less than 20 black actors have won, one black African has won (Lupita Nyong’o), two black men have won twice (Denzel Washington and Sidney Poitier), and one black man who notably refused stereotypical roles throughout his acting career (Sidney Poitier, again). Unfortunately, not everyone had the option of choosing the roles that were not stereotypical like Poitier. Lupita Nyong’o, despite her Yale degree in theater, had to play a slave in order to win, Halle Berry had to portray a sexual act in the complete nude in order to win an award, both Mo’Nique and Jennifer Hudson had to play distressed struggling black women to win an award. See a pattern here?
Black stereotypical archetypes are seemingly the only way black actors can succeed in their craft. This is sad reality for many black actors in the field, who cannot break out of this light. Stereotypically, dark-skinned black women have always been portrayed as the unfit mother, the “mammy” or the under-skilled struggling single mother. Light-skinned black women have been fetishized by men, which gives a deeper explanation for Halle Berry’s role in "Monster's Ball." And it’s not just black women. White women have always been portrayed as the dumb blonde (Reese Witherspoon in "Legally Blonde") and undereducated (Julia Roberts in "Erin Brockovich").
Considering how the media shapes society, these roles need to end. For Jimmy Kimmel to make fun of the plight of black actors and actresses by having a skit, mocking these types of movies is not only offensive, but are simple cheap shots at the reasoning behind #oscarssowhite. Ironically enough, some of the actors and actresses Kimmel mentioned in the skit, were on his show. For a late night host to make fun of the actors who were former guests on his show is an insult to them and black entertainers everywhere.
To downplay an issue of the lack of diversity in American film is disgusting. In 2016, one would imagine that this issue would be respected, but it seems like it will never be taken seriously.