By Duke Staff
This past Oscars season yielded a slew of exciting winners; Rami Malek took home the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. Black Panther’s Ludwig Goransson, Hannah Beachler and Ruth Carter won Best Original Score, Production Design and Costume Design respectively. For his work on BlacKkKlansman, Spike Lee took home a long-awaited trophy for Best Adapted Screenplay. However, not all wins sat well with the masses.
When Green Book beat out films like BlacKkKlansman, Roma and Black Panther to take home the coveted award Best Picture, Spike Lee walked out, Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan shared a cryptic, unhappy glance and the Internet revolted.
Green Book attempted to capture the life and times of Jamaican-American pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) and his white driver Frank Anthony “Tony Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) as they embarked on an eight-week tour through the segregated southern U.S. Despite receiving several accolades, the film came under scrutiny when Shirley’s family spoke out to condemn it. Shirley’s brother Maurice accused the film of lying, engaging in stereotypes and misrepresenting Shirley’s experiences and relationship with his family.
As if that isn’t bad enough, Mortensen used the n-word at a panel discussion for the film, and even though he apologized, words cannot be so easily undone. Director Peter Farrelly allegedly used to flash his penis at crowds as a prank back in the 90s, and in 2015, screenwriter Nick Vallelonga tweeted his support for Trump’s false claim that Muslims cheered on 9/11.
Green Book was up against so many other films that better told the stories of the marginalized. BlacKkKlansman demonstrated the courage of a black man in the face of historical hatred, transcending society’s expectations of him. Roma was praised for its moving emotionalism. Black Panther is full of lovable characters, staying true to Marvel’s grace while also tackling issues of poverty and violence. Bohemian Rhapsody told the tale of a bisexual immigrant from Zanzibar who rocked the world. In what way does it seem right that Green Book, with all its controversy and the outrage it provoked from its protagonist’s family, come out on top?
Green Book feeds into a larger narrative that aims to rewrite black history in a way that’s softer and more comfortable for a white audience. It perpetuates a white savior complex and misses the mark in its aim to tell an authentic story.