The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) has quite the audacity and the unmitigated gall. Following a PR nightmare with its all-white acting nomination list for the EE British Academy Films Awards (known as the BAFTAs), it looks like the academy’s nerve went even further than you can imagine.
According to Variety, the academy initially reached out to Cynthia Erivo’s reps in December in hopes that she would perform at the ceremony. The actress’ reps then replied that they’d confirm after the nominations were announced. Erivo has been getting some awards season buzz for her performance in Harriet, racking up nominations for high-profile awards such as the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice Awards.
As we now know, Erivo didn’t receive a nomination—in fact, neither did any actor/actress of color. But, here’s where the motherfucking audacity comes into play—BAFTA still decided to try their hand and ask Erivo to perform anyway. Her team declined. Welp.
Now, it’s not unheard of for a star to perform at an awards ceremony without being nominated, but the snub is especially eyebrow-raising, given that Erivo is British. In addition to her snub, acclaimed black actors such as Daniel Kaluuya (also British) and Lupita Nyong’o (an awards season darling who has been completely shut-out from “mainstream” awards noms this year so far) were also missing.
Though this year was arguably full of heavy hitters in film, it’s not like BAFTA simply didn’t have enough room to include at least one thespian of color. How do I know? Well, the academy decided to give Scarlett Johansson and Margot Robbie two nominations. Let that sink in—the actresses filled up two extra spots that could’ve been awarded to an actor of color in a year that The Farewell, Queen & Slim, Parasite, Waves, Luce, Us, Clemency, Hustlers and many more works with formidable acting performances were released.
Johansson received a Leading Actress nom for Marriage Story and a Supporting Actress nom for Jojo Rabbit while Robbie received two nominations in the very same category (Supporting Actress for Bombshell and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood).
Variety went on to further report:
Denzel Washington, who has won two Academy Awards, has never been nominated for a BAFTA.
“It’s pretty shameful in this day and age, in 2020, when we’re deep in the future that we still have to have reminders of diversity,” said Michael Eric Dyson, author of the book “JAY-Z: Made in America” and a sociology professor at Georgetown University. “People of color are still invisible. They can do the heavy lifting, they can do the toting, they can do the tremendous acting, but they can’t be recognized for their craft.”
Dyson said that by asking Erivo to sing, but not recognizing her acting, the BAFTAs were falling in line with old racist stereotypes.
“We want you to sing because you people can really sing,” he said. “That’s the reinforcement of the ‘Mammy’ stereotype if we’ve ever had one, a kind of artistic ‘Mammy’—‘Oh you’re not good enough to be nominated for the tremendous acting that you do, but we want you to nonetheless sing for us, to perform for us. We won’t recognize you for your talent, your gift, for your superior achievement, but we will exploit your undeniable genius.’ That’s an unfortunate index of the racial insensitivity that prevails in European and American culture.”
As we noted on the day the BAFTAs noms were announced, the last biggie is the Oscars. The Academy Award nominations are set to be announced on Jan. 13.