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Oscar Voters Admit They Didn’t Watch “12 Years A Slave”

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By Barry Burch Jr.

Whoever said you needed to watch a movie to determine whether to award it an Oscar or not?

One rumor that stayed around for the days leading up to the 86th annual Academy Awards was that some Oscar voters did not want to watch “12 Years a Slave.”  Surprisingly for some and unsurprisingly for others, this rumor seems to be true.  According to The Huffington Post, two anonymous members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences never saw the movie directed by Steve McQueen even though he was presented with an award for Best Picture.

The Los Angeles Times broke the story.   It reads “All the same, two Oscar voters privately admitted that they didn’t see ’12 Years a Slave,’ thinking it would be upsetting.  But they said they voted for it anyway because, given the film’s social relevance, they felt obligated to do so.”

The host of the Oscars, Ellen Degeneres, addressed this type of thinking in her Oscars monologue.  “Possibility number one: ’12 Years a Slave’ wins Best Picture. Possibility number two: You’re all racists,” she joked.

Though rumors spread that some Oscar voters had opted out of watching “12 Years a Slave,” this information was not confirmed until after the votes were already in.  At an event hosted by Vanity Fair, publicist Peggy Siegal explained that there were voters who were reluctant to give McQueen’s film an opportunity due to its content and subject matter, as reported by The Huffington Post.

Siegal’s claims were supported by an anonymous voter who spoke with The Hollywood Reporter.  She said that she refused to watch “12 Years a Slave” because for her it was just “more terrible stuff to keep in my head.”  The woman who identified herself as a senior continued, “I have never liked movies that have severe violence.”

It is unclear whether this woman was one of the two anonymous voters polled by the Los Angeles Times.  The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has more than 6,000 members.

Barry is an award-winning writer and political scientist.  His business, “Barry Writes,” provides biographies, speeches, press releases and so forth to individuals and businesses in need of potent and compelling literature.  Reach him @ Facebook.com/barrywrites and Twitter.com/barryburchjr

daphne R

33 Comment

  1. The fact that ‘professional’ people couldn’t bring themselves to even do their job because a film may be ‘upsetting’ speaks VOLUMES about the amount of guilt associated with this country’s history.
    Still, it doesn’t surprise me at all.

    • I don’t think it’s guilt.

      They just didn’t care about what happened to us when we were slaves. The same people probably watched Schindler’s List even as gruesome as it might have been because they felt obligated to see because those people mattered. They were human. And black people aren’t fully human so our pain doesn’t matter. Just like a sociopath doesn’t feel guilty about the people he or she has victimized. If they did, they would stop doing it.

  2. Whatever, there’s “severe violence” and “true violence” and this is true violence. I wish we as black folks could say the same when you people have done some of the most heinous things to us. 12 Years a Slave just shows you the ugly reality of what was done and how painful it is (not was) to us still.

  3. Surprise? I think not.

  4. So why did 12 Years a Slave and Steve McQueen and the young lady win? So Steve McQueen was the first from his country to win a Oscar, and she was the first African to win for her country. wow great for their people

  5. This confirms what I suspected all along. That the black movies that win Academy awards are political and not about black excellence, they’re about promoting the kind of regressive and racist imagery that the people who control Hollywood want to go all over the world

    blacks as servants, criminals (Training Day), whores (Monster Ball), pimps, and slaves. Mostly degenerate, dysfunctional loser black folks or those who “know their place”

    It’s too bad that we blacks are still so thrilled for white people to give us an award, we never really examine what it is for.

    wake up, people and examine what these imagery really says about where we are headed in this economy.

    approval (yah, whites are giving a black person another award)

  6. @Paul H. (applause), I agree with you! What’s baffling to me is why Blacks accept an award from an institution that blatantly discriminates against them, and why Blacks accept roles that exploit their people. Moreover, acceptance of such award perpetuates self-hatred and psychologically impairs our young people.

    • @ s’ann

      I agree with you 100%

      We are still caught up in getting white approval because we have been deprived of it for so long. It’s the same reason we spend our last dollars on designer clothes when those designers don’t hire black models or designers for their fashion shows and don’t advertise in black media or media aimed at black people.

      And the same reason we feel proud to have a white man or white woman on our arm. If we really looked close, we would have to admit that most of the time it’s their whiteness and what it represents that thrills us, not their personalities or appearances.

      All this keeps up locked into a self-hatred cycle where we give someone white the power to decide if we are worthwhile and human. The day we stop looking for this approval is the day we start to break the chains off our minds.

  7. I would like to preface my comment by saying that I consider myself to be a people person and can respect and appreciate other cultures, but I despise racism and discrimination of all forms.

    With respect to your comment, “We are still caught up in getting white approval because we have been deprived of it for so long.” Deprived? Not sure I understand what you mean by deprived in this context. To say we have been deprived for whites approval is contradictive, but I do agree that we do not need whites approval in honoring our accomplishments, and in recognizing our gifts and talents. That’s why we have BET Awards and the NAACP Image Awards. To seek approval from whites is subservient. Our talents and gifts come from God and how we use them should have His approval.

    Concerning your comment about designer jeans, you make a valid point. That applies to consumerism in general. In fact, we, as a people spend way to much on clothes, hair, nails, etc. That’s because our priorities are displaced. Instead, we should save and invest, and patronize Black businesses more.

    Regarding interracial relationships, the REASON individuals choose to date or marry outside their race is the critical issue. I know of individuals who actually think whites make better mates, when in fact, its about making the right choices in terms of an individual’s character and values, and determining whether the individual is compatible.

    I would also add that it is imperative that we educate our young people to not only be critical and independent thinkers, but also become socially conscience. Moreover, it is equally important in order for our culture to survive to pass down our traditions, values and history. When you know your history, you have a greater love and respect for self and your people, and a sense of pride.

    Lastly, with respect to Hollywood and theatrics, when we project negative roles of ourselves, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

    • @ s’ann

      My apologies for incorrectly using the word “approval.”

      What I meant was whites have denied acknowledging our humanity for so long that many black people feel pressured to prove and judge ourselves and each other by a white standard that says, white is normal, non-white is not.

      Unfortunately, black people do not control OR own BET or the NAACP, and if you look at the people who are “winning” on these shows, some of it is quite shameful. Instead of celebrating scholars, we are taught to view entertainers as our best and sometimes only role models. (???)

      I agree with your statement that, “…our priorities are displaced. Instead, we should save and invest, and patronize Black businesses more.”

      Most of the black people, not saying all of them, but most that I know personally who are in interracial relationships shun relationships with black people. I even know a few who do not have any black friends and look down on other black people. Now, this is my experience. It may not be yours or anyone else’s.

      Of course, no one is color blind and neither is ‘love.’ How can any black person in America honestly say they’re not aware of a white person being a white person and that this awareness has no bearing on how they see or treat that white person?

      From what I’ve observed, the white person is often treated with more respect and deference, so one can only imagine what happens behind some closed doors. While we often treat each other with contempt and disrespect then wonder why our relationships are so problematic.

      I believe this comes from our 400 plus years of slavery experiences, where our families and bonds and self-respect were damaged. I know most won’t admit this, but we are still carrying those slave chains in our minds, otherwise, how does one explain our often contradictory and self-destructive behavior as a group?

      I also agree that we must know and teach our history and that requires that we be honest about our collective condition today, however painful that might be, so we can work toward a better future.

  8. I wonder how does this make the Oscar winners feel and the rest of the cast and staff? Is this the first time that the voters never watched the movie and then proceeded to vote?

  9. It was an excellent movie!

  10. Hello to you all. Just had to say that I agree wholeheartedly with both of your comments. We as a people appear at times to be lost but i have to be honest and say that those of my generation became so caught up in viewing our success through material possessions. This has been passed down to the succeeding generations. Yes we as a people need to do all you said and more if we are to survive and thrive in this world. Educating our children about our history both the good and bad so they know the great strength and excellence in all our ancestors who survived 400 years of degradation and inhumanity from a people who to this day reward us for playing roles that fit how we are perceived in their and sadly the world’s eyes. We must instill in our young a thirst for knowledge, truth and excellence for they are our hope and future. We as a people have given so much to this nation that treats us with disdain. From the design of cities, the street light, the washing machine and the polio vaccine. Dr’s, lawyers, and great statesmen and women we as a people achieved all this while still dealing with atrocities being thrown at us from “them” We as a people continued to drive on and I have faith we will continue to rise and drive on facing any adversity. That is what I passed on to my children and I know they are doing so with theirs. Lastly, let me encourage you all to remain strong and vigilant. Hold your heads up proudly walk on this road called life knowing you are strong. Protect yourselves and your families because we know that the things have changed the more they haven’t. And live your lives to the fullest. Seek no one’s “approval but your own and your higher power. Oh and what I said about materialism isn’t just our issue it’s one of the biggest problems for the citizens of this nation. That’s all I have. Peace…

    • @ Stephen E Walker

      I believe one of the first things we must do as black parents is to be on guard for entertainers disguised as sheep, so to speak.

      Today’s crop of black entertainers are being used to destroy black youth and they have become mindless weapons in the war against our sanity and self-respect as a people.

      Too many black youth want to be comedians, clowns, rappers, and reality tv stars instead of doctors, scientists, and architects. Black people cannot build a business base or any economic future if we are producing a surplus of clowns, dancers, singers, and comedians.

      It’s not their fault. We must teach them the dangers of worshiping the immoral, the perverse, the twisted and the money hungry clones that appear on the TV and movie screens so people all over the world see black people at our worst.

  11. It frustrates me when people selfishly cater to their comfort levels as if those that have suffered at the hands of American people have been granted that opportunity. People don't want to watch it because it is upsetting? Well, so is the reality that soooo many have lived and continue to live at the hand of the expression of the "greatness" that this country is founded upon. Give me a break….the least they could do is listen to the story told by Mr. Northup…yeah, it's upsetting and what we should do with that emotion is channel it into something that ensures that such a thing ceases from ever happening again..starting with paralleling this unfortunate experiences with their extensions that we see in present day.

  12. Can’t say I am surprised.

    I felt the same way with Django Unchained. Sad really.
    We have a long way to go as a race.

    • @ Lefa

      I agree. Nearly every “black” film that has come out of Hollywood in the last several years has had a similar theme of black degradation in one form or another — extreme poverty, sexually perverted child abuse, slavery, subservience (butlers and domestic workers), or they have been a complete distortion of black history, like Lincoln (showing slaves as passive accepting their enslavement and Red Tails, showing black males clowning and having no discipline which was the exact opposite of what the Red Tails stood for.

      And there has been two recurring themes in nearly every “black” movie: black males not being sexually involved with black females and vice versa. Two, black females having to look white to be considered attractive, desirable, and sexy.

      But we are so determined to be endlessly entertained, we don’t seem to care what kind of messages we or our children are being programmed with.

      And that is a cornerstone of our demise as black folks.

  13. @Paul, I understand you clearly and we are on the same page. With respect to the NAACP Image Awards and BET Honors, I truthfully did not research who the owners were, etc., but I do know that their focus have primarily been in recognizing Blacks’ achievements. Debra Lee organizes and presents BET Honors, and I believe this year for the first time Visual Fine Arts was included and the recipient was Carrie Mae Weems. However, I do agree they should broaden the categories beyond entertainers.

    I, too, do not believe in the color blindness perspective as it denies one’s Blackness. Regarding the interracial relationships, the women I know had terrible relationships with Black men and think all Black men are the same, and some of the Black men I know, actually think white women are better than sistahs because of their features. Doesn’t say much for their mothers, grandmothers or sisters. Well, I know we have raised other issues beyond the topic, but I have enjoyed the exchange.

    @Stephen, well said. Best wishes to you and yours.

    @Lefa, what is really sad is that some Blacks don’t get it and considered Django to be acceptable.

  14. Its alot of nonsense what those two are saying for thier lack of voting.it is like a doctor saying he or she does not treat accident victims becuase their disfigured sights would be mentally upsetting reallly?
    If the craft is posibly the best and the actors better,actresses better then why can’t the win be a valid one?Are they trying to say the movie got voted for an Oscar becuase of White guilt?Thats llike saying Obama got voted in twice becuase of white guilt and therefore did not run a credible campaign?

    Please, what do you take the rest of us for?

  15. Well in the last ten or so year Black American creativity and genius seem to have been given an economic blackout.In the history of this world,African American have mad every powerful cultural impact around the world.I mean everybody from China to Nigeria wanted to be an African America,sound and talk like one.In every aspect of culture from sports icons to music,movie legends like Micheal Jackson,Ice cube,Mtume,SOS,Diana Ross,Richard Pryor,Eddie Murphy,Nia Long ,the Soul Train founder,the Wayans, Lionel richie,Michael Jordan im mean the list is endless.Black Writers,scholars celebrated all over the world.So what happened?A new lame stream media started the negative portrayals of the African American community and their icons and i blame them for alloawing that happen.

  16. So it is good to see that there is a new media such as this one to provide that needed credible platform to capture,stir,inspire that black genius and heritage as we know it.

  17. They are going by the saying that what one does not know does not hurt!

  18. AAs may wish to learn African history too:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Po1RGmzfnNY

  19. I empathize with many of your opinions in this blog today and I think you have valid points. However let me add some more fuel to this fire. It has long been known that many of the Academy voters do not actually sit and watch the films they are voting for this is not a secret. Secondly the Oscars are really not about recognizing the best movies they are really about marketing, promotions, sales and politics. I saw twelve years a slave and I saw the Butler a film that was snubbed completely. It is a known fact that the Oscars never like to award African American movies or actors that present us in strong positive roles. Like Denzel Washington in Malcolm X or Will Smith in Ali. I think twelve years a slave winning at the Oscars and The Butler’s snubbing continue that attitude. Twelve Years a Slave told the same slave story Black Man taken from his home and enslaved. However the Butler chronicled the story of a strong African American family living and growing through the Civil Rights movement and the upward mobility of us as a people. If movies possibly do what they should which is challenge and inspire which movie do you think would have a greater impact impact in inspiring our youth to challenge and change America. The slave narrative or the Civil Rights narrative. As a African American living in America with all of it’s imperfection I am happy for those Blacks involved with Twelve Years a Slave that won because their work was good no matter how misguided I believe the Academy is. I can only hope that the new African American woman heading the Academy will make some progress in beginning the process of moving the Academy to trying to recognize the best movies and performances period and stop trying to make political statements and promote some of the box office failures.

  20. We'll said. I agree.

  21. Twelve Years a Slave is based on truth. Not sure why folks are saying Hollywood want to show us in this way or that way. Blacks were slaves. Slavery existed and it was part of thenAmerican culture. Slavery happened. Why are we so ashamed of this very ugly and dark past. We have no blood on our hands. We did not do anything to created this. White men and women who profited from slavery have blood on their hands. And during judgement day they must answer to God. The fact that Mt. McQueen made moves to bring our story to the big screen, says a lot. He obviously wanted to tell Mr. North up, story. This man was a free man during slavery, he was a musician a talented man a well traveled man who could read and write. And he was brought back into slavery. This is a rich part of our history that we should want to know about. Folks saying they are tired of black people being depicted as slaves and want to see us as kings and queens. Our ancestors were also slaves and we must know our past in order to know our future. It’s disrespectful to the millions of slaves who lost their lives at the hands if demented, greedy, evil white people who treated them like cattle, to want to erase slavery from ever existing. Again it happened.

  22. I didn’t know that a black woman is heading the academy. I’m hopeful that Mr. McQueen will be able to do more movies telling the stories of black people in this country. Our struggle and our success stories. There were many African American Inventors and first black female doctors. First blacks to enter Ivy League schools here and abroad. We have so much to tell on the big screen. We just need folks like Mr. McQueen to direct and write it. And beauties like Lupita, Alfred, and Viola to play it on the big screen. Why should our talents go un notice? We don’t need them to validate our talent through the Oscars Award. We can make up our own award to validate the talents of our own.

  23. This doesn’t surprise me that the voters didn’t watch this movie.white folks do not want to acknowledge racism still exist (and their refusal to even talk about it) let alone that slavery was a dark ugly past that they created. Too much blood on their hands.

  24. IM NOT AT ALL SURPRISED SO WHY ARE YOU?????? HUH

  25. The fact that some “Oscar Voters” didn’t watch 12 Years a Slave does not surprise me in the least since we live in a era where folks just want to be “Happy” as the musical name states. Although the Dallas Buyers Club was about people with AIDs it nevertheless was not considered as wretched as the act of slavery. But we live also live in a society with subtle racism which can only be seen if you really pay attention to how something is being presented. For instance if you read the book 12 Years a Slave you will see that certain parts of Solomon’s life as a slave was left out. They didn’t show how the white folks were so pleased with him that they let him become an assistant overseer with all do rights to whip other slaves as he saw fit. They didn’t show the time when he was coming back home with a “dressed pig” and met some escaped slaves that tried to take it from him. And how he subsequently got away and then turned them in. It didn’t focus on the fact that here was a house “trained” negro who now has to be a field negro and the consequence there of. I’m nevertheless glad that the Sister won Best Supporting Actress since this should translate into more roles for her, more money, and more opportunities to tell our strory.

  26. Piece of writing writing iis also a excitement, if you know after thaqt you can writte or else it is complicated to write.

  27. Next time I read a blog, Hopefully it doesn’t fail me as much as this particular one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read through, but I really believed you would probably have something interesting to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you could fix if you were not too busy seeking attention.

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