Idol Chatter

Idol Chatter


God and Race at the Oscars

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Jennifer Hudson’s Oscar win was everything we tune in for: a handsome leading man (George Clooney) welcoming a young actress to the Hollywood fold and a teary speech punctuated by gasps of gratitude and sheer terror (and featuring a grandmother). Another beauty of the moment was the lack of mention of Hudson’s race: In recent years, wins by Denzel Washington, Jamie Foxx, and Hallie Berry have celebrated, rightfully, the emergence of great roles and corresponding awards for African-American actors. With Forest Whitaker, Will Smith, Eddie Murphy, and Hudson all up for Oscars, one couldn’t be race-blind at this year’s ceremony (“It’s a wonderful year to be an African-American actor,” Beyonce Knowles said on her way into the Kodak Theater). But both Hudson and Whitaker accepted their awards without calling attention to the color of their skin.

Except, of course, in her simple statement, “Here’s what God can do.” It’s hard to imagine a Caucasian performer leading with this in their acceptance speech. As in pop music, where Aretha Franklin can sing at church without causing anyone to wonder about her politics, or rappers like Mos Def can proclaim their Muslim faith without it defining their, uh, profile, African-Americans bring God naturally into mainstream events, without risking their popularity. Why? I’ve often thrown this question out to black and white performers alike, and few even attempt an answer.

Hudson’s easy touch with Godtalk also allowed her to slip effortlessly out of a ridiculous exchange with E! reporter Ted Casablanca. Pressed by Casablanca for a few words of advice for fellow pop diva Britney Spears, Hudson said, “All I can do is pray for Britney.” Amen.



  • http://HASH(0xfe20b0c) Different_But_Equal

    Frankly, the fact that we care if a “black actress” wins the Oscar annoys me. I’d only care if a “good actress” won the Oscar.

  • http://HASH(0xfe217a4) Joey

    I think it might be because African-Americans have always been very religious, and even today tend to be very church-oriented, in general. Sociologically, this probably has to do with the historic troubles they’ve endured—God has proven a refuge from slavery, segregation and the general poverty and troubles of today. Many African-American entertainers themselves come from these humble backgrounds, so it seems faith seems to stick with them more than with white celebrities, who generally grew up in more affluent homes. My take on it. God bless.

  • http://HASH(0xfe225d0) John Denson

    The Oscars are a shambles. They are no longer actor or actress oriented but ar politically correct oriented. This is why I turn them off after a few minutes. Al Gore wins an oscar for global warming, a documentary of outright lies. Holliwood does not reflect American values nor American views, yet the media prints ands wishes that it did.

  • http://HASH(0xfe22504) Matt Butcher

    I agree that the Oscars have become politicized, but not that An Inconvenient Truth is an outright lie, or based on them. However, on the subject of why black people can mention God publicly with more ease than white people…well, it’s expected. Culturally, it’s expected for black people to be publicly religious, and it is tied to politics. But it’s the politics of Martin Luther King, Jr. For white people in America, the dominant cultural backdrop is Northwestern Europe. That values reserved attitudes, and religion in “white culture” has not been as openly expressed as it is in “black culture” in quite some time. When it is, public perception is that the white people doing it are a)bigoted, b)fundamentalists, and c)Republicans. None of which is necessarily true, by the way.

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