Small Talk

Tracy Clayton and Heben Nigatu Talk Tired Movie Tropes and #OscarsSoWhite

The hosts of "Another Round" tell Brendan and Rico why they're the wrong people to ask about #OscarsSoWhite and why Hollywood needs to get a little more creative.

Play
Pause
0:00 0:00

Rico Gagliano: So first we need to address the elephant in the room. In 2016, you cannot talk about stuff that didn’t get nominated for an Oscar without at least mentioning #OscarsSoWhite.

That is how the social media sphere describes this year’s Oscar nominees which conspicuously did not include several films by and about people of color, which some figured should have been shoe-ins for a nomination or two. Here to talk a tiny bit about that and then much more about other stuff, are Tracy Clayton…

Tracy Clayton: Hi.

Rico Gagliano: …and Heben Nigatu.

Heben Nigatu: What up!

Rico Gagliano: They host the super popular podcast “Another Round.”

Brendan Francis Newnam: And what do you guys talk about on “Another Round” for people who haven’t heard it?

Tracy Clayton: Literally everything.

Heben Nigatu: Oh my God, who hasn’t heard it? What? Do they not like joy? Do they not like fun? OK.

Rico Gagliano: For the three people in Idaho who haven’t heard it, what do you talk about?

Tracy Clayton: Race, class, gender, pop culture.

Heben Nigatu: Animals that Tracy really likes.

Tracy Clayton: And music. I talk a lot about animals.

Brendan Francis Newnam: You talk a lot about animals and you also have drinks when you’re doing it sometimes.

Tracy Clayton: All the time.

Heben Nigatu: Hence, “Another round.”

Brendan Francis Newnam: Unfortunately, we don’t have any drinks to offer you here because public media, can’t do it.

Rico Gagliano: Can’t afford it for one thing. But welcome, anyway.

Tracy Clayton: Thank you.

Rico Gagliano: So we called to ask you if there was anything that hadn’t already been said about the #OscarsSoWhite thing and basically your response was, “No, not really. It’s all been discussed.”

Tracy Clayton: Yeah.

Heben Nigatu: Yeah. I just feel like we have this same conversation every year and now [that] there’s catchy hashtag, white people are forced to pay attention.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I think you actually mentioned that this should be a question directed at white movie executives, not black media people.

Heben Nigatu: Yeah, I noticed during the Sundance coverage that a lot of people were asking the people of color at Sundance about Oscar season and all this stuff. It’s like, you should ask the white people who are making and funding movies at Sundance what’s good.

Tracy Clayton: Also what do you think our response is going to be? “Oh, it’s not bad. I don’t mind being looked over for my accomplishments. You know, white people just have better movies.” Like, that’s never going to be the answer.

Heben Nigatu: “And all of their stories are the only ones that matter.” [Laughs.]

Rico Gagliano: Well since there’s been so much talk about getting more people of color on screen, we thought we would ask you about representations of people of color that you would like to get off screens.

Tracy Clayton: Yeah we have a few hundred.

Heben Nigatu: Yeah, there’s so many.

Tracy Clayton: We’ll only give a few.

Rico Gagliano: Let’s keep it to three. What would number one be?

Tracy Clayton: Number one is the black best friend, for me, because it’s such a lazy way to include brown people in your movie so that you don’t look racist. But like this character doesn’t have a life or a purpose other than to be the support of the main character who is usually white.

Heben Nigatu: And often if it’s a woman, she’s sassy and giving her all this wisdom.

Tracy Clayton: Yeah, “Uh-uh girlfriend.”

Brendan Francis Newnam: The sassy advice giver.

Tracy Clayton: Yeah, “You need to kick him to the curb.”

Brendan Francis Newnam: So also on your list you said was the white parent of a mixed race child who has no idea what to do with her hair.

Rico Gagliano: The child’s hair.

Tracy Clayton: Yeah, the movie “Black and White,” is that what it was called?

Heben Nigatu: With Kevin Costner.

Brendan Francis Newnam: “Black or White.”

Tracy Clayton: “Black or White.” First of all, what a title.

Heben Nigatu: I know.

Tracy Clayton: Good job guys. Can’t imagine what this movie is about but he’s got a little mixed baby girl child and oh my God, her hair is, it’s just…

Heben Nigatu: “It’s so unruly! What do I do with it?”

Tracy Clayton: “How do I???” Which is a lazy way of being like, “Cultural differences are difficult.”

Rico Gagliano: But listen, you nailed it right. The reason is because it is a shorthand way to point out the difficulties of two cultures coming together. Isn’t that what movies do all the time? They’re kind of short handing things so that you quickly get the idea.

Tracy Clayton: But when it comes to race, I mean hair in particular marks brown people as brown and that’s why white folks have this obsession with black hair and wanting to touch it and stuff. “Oh, my God, it’s so different from me!”

So, it’s tiring to have to live through that and then to see it on the screen.

Rico Gagliano: It’s already a touchy subject, literally.

Heben Nigatu: I’ll allow it.

Rico Gagliano: Thank you.

Heben Nigatu: So yeah, another trope that we have some qualms with is the entire way that sci-fi and fantasy ignores people of color even though you can literally make up the universe.

Tracy Clayton: You make up your own rules.

Heben Nigatu: Completely different rules, but like…

Tracy Clayton: You are the creator of this universe.

Heben Nigatu: …You balk at the idea of a brown elf.

Rico Gagliano: That’s true, yeah.

Heben Nigatu: Why are there no people of color in sci-fi or fantasy?

Brendan Francis Newnam: No it’s true. I was googling before we came here, black people in sci-fi and there, it’s not a very long watch, guys. I couldn’t even procrastinate properly. I saw one clip from “Star Trek.”

Rico Gagliano: Although this year we have an example of “Star Wars,” which very noticeably opened up its world to a lead hero of color.

Heben Nigatu: Well yes and for the better. Have ya’ll seen John Boyega?

Rico Gagliano: Yes, amazing.

Heben Nigatu: You’re welcome!

  • Dan H

    OK, I’m surprised to be the first DPD nerd who is also a Star Trek nerd to point out: Star Trek featured black actors/characters in every series!
    http://blerds.atlantablackstar.com/2014/11/07/6-major-black-star-trek-characters-who-were-scene-stealers/
    … and that includes one captain, and a black Klingon and black Vulcan.
    Live long and prosper!

    • http://www.dinnerpartydownload.org Kristina Lopez

      Hey Dan,

      Yes, several “Star Trek” TV shows, as well as sci-fi TV shows in general, have had a good track record for diversity. Sci-fi FILMS on the other hand, tend to have mostly white casts.

      In fact, this 2014 chart of the 100 top domestic grossing sci-fi and fantasy films shows that only 8 percent of movies in the two genres had a protagonist of color (and six of those hero roles were played by Will Smith). http://bit.ly/1OMR0nE A lot more work needs to be done for the silver screen.

      Thanks for your input. Live long and prosper!