Actor Richard Dreyfuss decided to share his thoughts about the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ updated diversity and inclusion standards. In an interview on PBS’ “Firing Line With Margaret Hoover,” the Oscar winner explained his line of reasoning:
“They make me vomit. It’s an art. No one should be telling me as an artist that I have to give in to the latest, most current idea of what morality is. What are we risking? Are we really risking hurting people’s feelings? You can’t legislate that. You have to let life be life. I’m sorry, I don’t think there is a minority or majority in the country that has to be catered to like that.”
The changes he’s referring to begin in 2024 when movies will have to fulfill certain diversity requirements in order to be eligible for the best picture award. These guidelines include having at least one actor from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group having a significant role or the story must focus on women, a racial group, LGBTQ people or disabled people.
Of course, Dreyfuss didn’t stop there. He went on to inexplicably defend blackface, mentioning Laurence Olivier’s performance in the 1965 feature “Othello” in which the white English actor portrayed the Black lead character. “He played a Black man brilliantly. Am I being told that I will never have a chance to play a Black man?
“Is someone else being told that if they’re not Jewish, they shouldn’t play [in] ‘The Merchant of Venice’? Are we crazy?” Dreyfuss stated. “This is so patronizing. It’s so thoughtless and treating people like children.” I’m not sure why Dreyfuss’ hopes of playing a Black man are dashed when Hollywood literally caters to white men in lead roles.
What he represents is a fear of change that would disempower white people, which isn’t even a real thing. Sadly, the actor’s reiteration of white supremacist rhetoric is deeply embedded in the entertainment industry—and it’ll take more than updated diversity standards to fix it.