Do the NAACP Image Awards still matter?

The nominees for the NAACP Image Awards were announced this week, and while some are pouring through the list of nominees to see who the venerable organization has recognized, others are wondering if the awards show if even necessary at all.

This year’s list of nominees includes a mix of veteran talent like Denzel Washington and Kerry Washington, and some that don’t seem quite worthy of a nod (ehem, Tyler Perry). The mishmash group has caused some to argue that the Image Awards needs a serious makeover.

Kia Miakka Natisse of theGrio writes:

The NAACP Image Awards nominees were announced a few days ago, and it appears the once prestigious show is continuing its streak of mediocrity.

The level of effort they’re giving to the award categories is simply baffling. Take for example the best actor category: You’ve got acclaimed thespians like Denzel Washington, Jamie Foxx, and Morgan Freeman against Tyler Perry, who elbowed his way into the category via the box office bomb Alex Cross. 

The outstanding talk series category includes two mediocre shows from Oprah’s OWN network and TJ Holmes’ much-maligned Don’t Sleep, but Melissa Harris Perry and Al Sharpton’s insightful political shows on MSNBC were snubbed.

The NAACP’s baffling recent history of awarding seems to be based upon who will actually show up to claim the statue.

One of the biggest mistakes the NAACP made was to completely overlook filmmaker Ava DuVernay.

While DuVernay has racked up awards from prestigious organizations like the Sundance and Gotham film festivals, the NAACP failed to recognize her film, Middle of Nowhere, in either the Outstanding Motion Picture or Outstanding Independent Motion Picture categories, instead tapping Perry’s lackluster film Good Deeds.

Melissa Silverstein of the film blog Indiewire rightly wondered, “what the f–k” was the NAACP thinking for overlooking DuVernay.

Silverstein writes:

How is it possible that this film could have received NO nominations except in the acting categories.  I am flabbergasted.  It’s not that it would be a stretch to nominate this film.  That a woman’s work is “not good enough” or whatever other crap committees use to justify ignoring women creatives.  This film and this writer/director has been generating accolades since the film premiered last January in Sundance when Ava became the first African American woman to win best director.  The film has garnered other year end accolades including nominations from the Gotham Awards and the Independent Spirit Awards.

According to Silverstein, the politics of respectability could be at the heart of the decision to overlook DuVernay’s film. She wonders if the NAACP failed to nominate DuVernay “because she made a movie about a woman whose husband is in prison and the prison industrial complex figures so heavily in the story,” or “because the film is about the reality of a woman’s life and not enough of a “positive image.”

Whatever the reason, I fail to see how Perry’s past Madea films could be worthy of a nod, but DuVernay’s award-winning film was not.

Missteps like these only further the notion that the organization, and its award show, is dreadfully out of touch.

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