Chris Rock Eviscerates Oscars’ Lack of Diversity in Opening Monologue
After months of keeping silent on the Oscars’ lack of diversity, host Chris Rock gave the people what they wanted—or, at least, what they needed to hear.
In his opening monologue at Sunday night’s ceremony, Rock ripped into the Academy, which failed to nominate a single non-white actor for the second year in a row. Those nods led to the resurfacing of the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite and a cultural firestorm that saw just about everyone in Hollywood weighing in. The Academy itself even addressed the backlash by announcing new efforts to diversify their membership.
But Rock got the last word. After the ceremony began with a montage of the year in film, Rock stepped out on stage and set the tone. “Man, I counted at least 15 black people in that montage!” he cracked.
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He then dug deep into the Oscars’ diversity issue for more than 10 minutes, naming them the “White People’s Choice Awards” in the process. “If they nominated hosts,” he said, “I wouldn’t even get this job.”
He also addressed the call from some prominent black celebrities, such as Spike Lee and Will Smith, to boycott the ceremony. “How come it’s only unemployed people that tell you to quit something?” Rock questioned, adding, “The last thing I need is to lose another job to Kevin Hart.” As for Jada Pinkett Smith’s boycott position, he had choice words: “Jada boycotting is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited.”
As a solution to the diversity issue, Rock joked that black categories should be added, like “best black friend.” Wanda Sykes would have won 18 times, he said.
Other jabs included comparing Hollywood’s treatment of black actors to a sorority (“It’s like, ‘We like you Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa.’) and pointing out the Oscars’ long history of ignoring black actors. Back in the ’60s, he said, there were just bigger concerns for people of color. “When your grandmother’s swinging from a tree, it’s real hard to care about best documentary short,” Rock said.
But even amidst the jokes, Rock took a moment to make a plea to Hollywood with simple poignancy. He pointed out that Leonardo DiCaprio gets offers for huge movies every year, but talented black actors like Jamie Foxx do not receive the same treatment.
“We want opportunity,” he said matter-of-factly. “We want black actors to get the same opportunities. That’s it.”