#BackChannel: What Hollywood Gets Right & Wrong, The Contradictions Of College Sports, & More

Feb 28, 2019

Hollywood's biggest night of the year is over, and in the wake of all the glitz and glam there is both celebration and head scratching. Spike Lee won his first competitive Oscar for best adapted screenplay and jumped into presenter Samuel L. Jackson’s arms in one of the most emotive moments of the night. 

But later on in the evening, he almost walked out of the room when “Green Book” won best picture. That award has left many critics wondering when Hollywood will get it right on race. Popular culture experts Mark Anthony Neal and Natalie Bullock Brown share their take on the 2019 Oscars with host Frank Stasio in the latest installment of #BackChannel, ‘The State of Things’ recurring series connecting culture and context.

I think for many black folks at least ... [The Oscars] are never really reflective of what our consumer tastes are.
- Mark Anthony Neal

They also discuss new documentaries about Sam Cooke and Teddy Pendergrass. “ReMastered: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke” on Netflix traces Cooke’s legacy as an activist and performer and interrogates the factors that may have contributed to his death. Showtime’s “Teddy Pendergrass: If You Don’t Know Me” uses archival audio and video footage to pay tribute to Pendergrass’ musical legacy and comeback after he nearly died in a car crash.

Later, Neal and Brown review the new BET series “American Soul” that tracks the career of Don Cornelius and his show “Soul Train.” They also share their analysis of the shoe malfunction of Duke basketball player Zion Williamson and the conversation it has opened about the contradictions in college sports. Plus, what is the significance of all the media attention on the Jussie Smollett story?

Something has to be done that equalizes the playing field because these kids are making millions of dollars for these schools, and they don't get any of it. And they really don't have the opportunity to be educated.
- Natalie Bullock Brown

Natalie Bullock Brown is a filmmaker and teaching assistant professor at North Carolina State University, and Mark Anthony Neal is the James B. Duke professor and chair of the department of African and African American studies at Duke University in Durham. He is also an author and the host of the webcast “Left of Black.”