The history of the Academy Awards has always been marred by the residue of racism. From the first African American to win an Oscar, Hattie McDaniel not even being allowed to even sit at the table with her co-stars from “Gone with the Wind” to the lack of wins in general, there has always been little to no opportunity for actors of color at the industry’s highest award show. With Emmy, Tony and now an Academy Award win, Viola Davis has forged a career that has made many comparing her to Meryl Streep. With the ability to play a plethora of different character, Davis assured that she will continue to work for many years to come.

Though both are very opinionated women, the comparisons between Davis and Streep should stop.

Davis can transform into several different women

As seen throughout her extensive filmography, Davis has the ability to inhabit the life of so many different women. Streep has made a career of doing the same but that is where their similarities end. While Streep constantly plays roles which exhibit women in high level of society or have some kind of power for Davis, she normally has to play women that are much messier and far less sympathetic. A lot of this has to do with the fact that Hollywood still has a very different perception of white and black people. The characters normally offered to black actors involve some kind of negative stereotype or a character that is one dimensional.

In “Fences” Davis was able to play a woman that was messy but throughout the film, she had a journey and an ark. As shown on Davis’ television show “How to Get Away with Murder,” she can also play a woman that is successful in her professional but behind the scenes is barely keeping it together. While Davis has called Streep one of her influences, saying that she is the black Streep takes away from what she does as an artist that Streep cannot.

Davis is finally being given roles that allow her to shine

For some artists, success comes quickly and easily. For others, it is a gradual journey that involves laughter, tears, successes and doubts. Davis spent most of her early career on the stage until deciding to transition over to the big screen. She got the attention of Hollywood when she started opposite Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Doubt.” Although only on screen for eight minutes, she stole the movie and garner critical acclaim.

She continued to work and eventually landed the lead role in the film, “The Help,” where she received an Oscar nomination for best actress. Although playing a maid, she breathed life into the character and projected forth an inner strength that women of color from that time period needed to have. As the years have gone by, Davis has shown that she is a force of nature both on and off screen. Though there are similarities between Streep and Davis, their individual journeys and approaches to the craft of acting leave them at opposite sides of the spectrum. Instead of stating that one is like the other, we should just enjoy both of their works for what they are.