Why Ava Duvernay Shouldn’t Take Spike Lee’s Advice

January 19, 2015  |  

Ava Duvernay didn’t get a Best Director Oscar nom for Selma and Spike Lee goes ape s**t! should have been the headline of the article your friend sent you.

Your first impression was to go ape shit too because Selma was a fantastic movie and Ava did an amazing job with a story many of us feel like we know and have seen a zillion times. Somehow she made Martin Luther King and the march to Selma seem fresh and relevant today. Not an easy feat.

So to read Spike Lee get all up in arms made sense because it feels like Hollywood trying to keep a great black director down. Until you read his exerpt and, well, things change a little bit.

Of her Oscar ‘snub’ Spike told The Daily Beast,

“Join the club! But that doesn’t diminish the film. Nobody’s talking about motherfuckin’ Driving Miss Daisy. That film is not being taught in film schools all across the world like Do the Right Thing is. Nobody’s discussing Driving Miss Motherfuckin’ Daisy. So if I saw Ava today I’d say, ‘You know what? Fuck ’em. You made a very good film, so feel good about that and start working on the next one.”

Now it starts sounding like another Spike rant, and that’s when things get tricky. First of all, to snub someone means to dismiss or ignore them. If someone doesn’t pick you are they ignoring you or did they just not choose you? There’s a difference. To ignore someone means that you know they’re there and you choose not to see them. To not pick someone is to know they are there and choose not to pick them. They didn’t snub her because the movie is up for Best Picture and Original Song.

Some of America’s greatest directors were up for Best Picture but didn’t get a Best Director nod. You got Frank Darabont for The Shawshank Redemption, Steven Spielberg for both Jaws and The Color Purple, and Bruce Beresford saw Driving Miss Daisy win Best Picture despite his direction not getting an Oscar nod. And you have Spike Lee who is obviously still not happy with his Best Screenplay and Danny Aiello’s Best Supporting Actor nom for Do The Right Thing. He feels he was snubbed. Robbed. Whatever you want to call it, but the danger is in accepting these ideas in the first place.

Whenever you agree with a snub or robbery, you’re giving away your power. You can’t rob a person of something they don’t own. And how can you own recognition being given by someone else? It’s not even possible.

Like a poison, it starts getting in your head and making you do crazy things. Ask Kanye. Remember how he bum-rushed Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV awards because he felt Beyonce was robbed of Best Female Video? People start playing justice police for other people, but it’s really self-serving. Was he really defending Bey or was he still pissed about his 2004 American Music Award loss to country singer Gretchen Wilson? Of the loss Kanye told the press, “I feel like I was definitely robbed … I was the best new artist this year.”

It’s dangerous. Beyonce didn’t need Kanye to point out any injustice and Duvernay doesn’t need Spike. She’s cool. She won the Best Director Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, she was honored with the 2013 John Cassavetes Independent Spirit Award, and now she’s got a Best Picture Oscar nod for Selma.  If she can see it as they just didn’t pick her for Best Director instead of a snub, it might sting for a sec, but life moves on.

You were reading this article the other day about saving your f*cks for things that really matter. It explained that you can’t go through life all riled up, saying f*ck you to everything and everybody. If Duvernay is smart she’ll save her f*cks for if someone comes into her house and steals her TV or she’s at the store and the lady behind the counter refuses to acknowledge that she’s standing there. That’s a robbery. That’s a snub. But this? This is Hollywood and so what.

Erickka Sy Savané is a freelance writer and creator of THE BREW, a social commentary blog. Before that she was a model/actress/MTV VJ. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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