Dear Academy Museum, please stop trying to divide us

Film · Ideas & Opinion
doesn’t get better: cab, fayard, harold

Dear Academy Museum, The Nicholas Brothers were great dancers not ‘Black’ dancers

For an institution tripping over itself in an effort to evince sensitivity toward every sector, segment, and demographic that ever walked Planet Earth for the past 3,000 years — a real mission impossible, guys — you keep insulting my demographic!

Sirs and madams, I am a beleaguered minority, a dance critic. Please do not insult my art form by reducing the Nicholas Brothers, hallowed dancers widely revered by every race, color and creed, to being the poster child for ‘Black’ stuff, as you did for Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898–1971. That is a lie. Harold and Fayard, yes, were Black men, Black performers. Among the greatest Black performers of our nation’s entertainment history. And yet, I beg to quibble. Harold and Fayard belonged to a minority of even higher acclaim: sensational dancers. That is how dance people see, love, appreciate, revere and memorialize the Nicholases.

Academy Museum, please stop using human beings as chips in a poker game you yourselves are making up. Our artists and entertainers, especially those no longer with us, deserve better. They deserve to be lauded in their field, not ‘identified’ by their race or religion. Please stop dividing us, and please: Stop being so racist. We don’t see the Nicholas Brothers as Black. We see them as great.

on saturdays, oscar wears a yarmulke

Dear Academy Museum, You can “86” the ‘Care and Affection’ where Jews are concerned.

As mentioned above, for an institution tripping over itself to evince sensitivity in all directions, you keep insulting my demographic!

I belong to yet another beleaguered minority, I’m Jewish. The museum’s treatment of the origin story of classic Hollywood — material which is unarguably its wheelhouse if not its mainstay as a repository of film history — not just once, but twice, has caused a furor in Jewish circles.

A promised exhibit, much planned after having been overlooked at the time of the Museum’s opening, is now on view. Hollywoodland: Jewish Founders and the Making of a Movie Capital has come to pass. I cringed when I saw the title of the show. Why “Jewish Founders?” Why not just “Founders” — of whom many, most, or even a majority were Jewish? Why not just “Hollywoodland: the Making of a Movie Capital”?

Not every studio founder was Jewish: granted, a majority of them were, but among that small group of people, several did not practice; changed their Jewish names; several married non-Jewish wives and raised their children out of the faith. What bonded these men is that each took on a single-minded mission of assimilation in pursuit of the American Dream. It was their assimilationist ethos that fueled a much-mythologized representation of the American lifestyle and values we see in Hollywood movies of the first half of the twentieth century. THAT is what matters about their Jewishness, in my view — the way they eschewed it, with several notable exceptions (primarily but not exclusively, the Warner Bros).

We learned in an article by television showrunner Michael Kaplan, published yesterday, May 28, 2024, and excerpted below, that the Hollywoodland show is “placard”-challenged. That is, the little wall notices posted as display cards are peppered with irrelevant woke messaging. (n.b.: We at artsmeme have not seen the show.)

and this ….

Yet another thought piece has just been published by Los Angeles Magazine. The author is Malina Saval. She picks up on the theme of divisiveness I am arguing.

Debra Levine is the founder/publisher/editor of artsmeme, now in its sixteenth year of arts-blogging.