By Mark Pinkert
This is the first article in a three-part series
In his 2006 Oscar acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actor, George Clooney said the following about Hollywood as a forum for social change:
We’re the ones who talk about AIDS when it was just being whispered, and we talked about civil rights when it wasn’t really popular. And we, you know, we bring up subjects. This Academy, this group of people gave Hattie McDaniel an Oscar in 1939 when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters. (About.com; “The Politics of George Clooney; Actor and Liberal Activist”)
Hollywood is often more progressive than other parts of the country, sure, and great films often lends pathos to social issues. They may even galvanize movements or rally support from previous non-believers. But there are other, extenuating facts we ought to consider before labeling Hollywood and the Academy the vanguard of social progress. Hattie McDaniel, for instance, did have to sit in the back of the ballroom at a segregated table during 1939 Academy Awards.