A little bit during (but mostly following) the Academy Awards ceremony last year, the Twittersphere was overflowing with the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.
This was essentially a passive aggressive response to what was viewed as an outrageous lack of diversity among Oscar nominees and winners. This year, after the nominees were announced, #OscarsSoWhite made another appearance.
There are 20 actors and actresses nominated in the Best Leading Actor/Actress and Best Supporting Actor/Actress categories. All 20 are white. There are 15 people nominated in the Best Directing and Best Orginial Screenplay categories. All 15 are white.
Creed is a film starring a black man and was directed by a black man. The only Oscar nominee to come of it is Sylvester Stallone.
Straight Outta Compton is a movie starring several black men and was directed by a black man. The only Oscar nominees to come of it are its white screenwriters.
According to The Los Angeles Times, 94% of the voting board is white.
Is it safe to say that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has something against people of color?
To say that the lack of diversity in the past two batches of Academy Award nominees is something that happened on purpose is not necessarily fair. But is it still a problem? And if it is, what is supposed to be done about it?
The film industry is important. Movies are important. Going to the movie theatre, watching movies with friends and families, admiring the beautiful actors and the beautifully written stories–it is without a doubt a splendid part of the American experience.
And if the Academy is to represent America, or the world, shouldn’t it then be diverse?
Perhaps we are overlooking people who deserve to be recognized. What do you think, Leo?
We could of course sit down with each other and have a friendly and open debate over the notion that the Academy is mostly white for the same reason the NBA is mostly black.
And I consider that a valid point.
It could very well be that in 2014 and 2015, the best actors, actresses, directors, screenwriters, etc. were indeed the white ones. Just as the best recruited basketball players “happened” to be the black ones.
Consider 2014: Common, a black rapper, deserved “Best Song” in my opinion, and he got it. Matthew McConaughey, a white actor, deserved “Best Actor” in my opinion, and he got it.
So what’s the big deal?
Sports are pretty objective. It’s much easier to prove that one person is better at basketball than another person than it is to prove that he was better in one movie than another person was in another movie.
I can’t argue that T.J. McConnell is better at shooting three-pointers than Steph Curry because it is quite literally false. But I could argue that Idris Elba was better in Beasts of No Nation than Michael Fassbender was in Steve Jobs. Film judgment is not objective, but subjective.
I’ll go ahead and admit that I don’t think the Academy is racist. I don’t think anyone really wants to make people believe that.
It makes no sense to cast a vote for someone because of their race, but it also makes no sense to not cast a vote for someone because of their race.
So they’re making changes to the process of becoming a member of the Academy as well requirements for voting members. Here’s what’s happening in short:
- If you haven’t been active in the film business in a decade, your voting status might be revoked. If you’ve had three 10-year terms, you’ve got lifetime voting rights. If you’ve won or been nominated for an Oscar, you also get lifetime rights.
- The academy is expanding its governing board by adding three new seats. One of those seats will be filled by the president because she automatically adds diversity due to her being African American and a woman.
- “New members from diverse backgrounds” will be added to various committees.
GREAT. NOW WE HAVE DIVERSITY QUOTAS. WHAT A PROGRESSIVE TIME WE LIVE IN.
Are we literally deciding whether people are eligible to vote for the Oscars by their color and gender?
Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith are boycotting the ceremony (I hate their kids. A lot. See an earlier post for details.) So it’s not just everyday citizens who are seeing this diversity thing as a problem. Others are taking a different stance…
“I think it’s completely ridiculous to bring in ethnicity to the evaluation of creative performances and filmmaking and acting…We’re supposed to be evaluating talent in categories, and one of the categories is ‘What is their ethnicity?’ To make it one of the categories is ridiculous.” – Keith Merrill (won an Oscar for The Great American Cowboy and has an adopted black daughter)
I wouldn’t say that the Academy is going to start giving awards to undeserving women or people of color. I think the idea is to just be mindful and certain that women and people of color are not disregarded despite doing an award-worthy job.
I am looking forward to seeing black comedian, actor, and producer Chris Rock host the Academy Awards. It’s one of my favorite nights of the year.
These controversies may seem like they’re getting in the way of all the fun, but we can still enjoy the movies and still enjoy the awards.
We just can’t forget that diversity is important in any industry that is representative of a diverse world.
(And a white guy probably shouldn’t be playing Michael Jackson.)
-We’re all human.-