The last two years have seen a rising backlash against the Oscars for their lack of diversity, after no black actors were nominated in the best actress or actor category for the second year running. If you haven't been living under a rock, you will have seen the viral hashtag #OscarsSoWhite which trended worldwide for the last two years.
The hashtag and cause got support from many in the industry, for example director Spike Lee wrote "We cannot support it and mean no disrespect to my friends, host Chris Rock and producer Reggie Hudlin, president Isaacs and the Academy. But how is it possible for the 2nd consecutive year all 20 contenders under the actor category are white? And let's not even get into the other branches. 40 white actors in 2 years and no flava at all. We can't act?! WTF".
Lee's outrage was mirrored by thousands on social media, and others in the industry like Will and Jada Smith who boycotted this year's Oscars in light of the nominations. Luptia also commented on the ceremony stating "the Awards should not dictate the terms of art in our modern society, but rather be a diverse reflection of the best of what our art has to offer today. I stand with my peers who are calling for change in expanding the stories that are told and recognition of the people who tell them".
Due to the above controversy the film industry has finally decided to take action, with the Hollywood Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences opening up the academy, inviting 683 new members to join the panel.
Those who have confirmed the offer include Idris Elba and Michael B. Jordan. Moreover, women such as Brie Larson and Emma Watson have also been invited.
The new 683 people are 46% female, 41% people of colour and represents 59 countries. Meaning that the Academy, with its new members is now 27% female and 11% people of colour.
The above statistics show how disproportionately reflective the old membership was, and that even with the new class included there is still a long way to go before the Oscars diversify.
The thing is, it's easy to point the finger at the ceremony because it is such a coveted and widely televised night- but the real problem lies with institutional bias. Although the Oscars should try and push for a more diversified ceremony, which arguably they are now taking steps to do, they can only do so much. A larger movement of diversification in the industry as a whole needs to happen, which as a snowball effect links to America's larger problem with societal racism and sexism.
Some have argued that the Oscars have been progressive, for example the best supporting actress category has been called 'a diverse group' by the Washington Post. *internal screams*. I may be pointing out the obvious here, but if the only category that is racially diversified is the 'best supporting' category doesn't that speak volumes about how the Academy views minorities? That they can win or do well in the supporting role, but not the lead.
This marginalisation highlights the larger issue, and although I see why the Washington Post view it as a success it sort of feels like they're taking the stance 'every little helps'. Which, fine, it does and seeing people reflective of minorities win Oscars is of course a positive step- but the fact that for the last two years every person in the best actress and actor category have been white unconsciously reinforces racial prejudices. Subliminally it's sending the message that minorities should be included and that they can win supporting awards, but that white people are still dominant.
The racial issue is prevalent and obvious, which is why the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite has proved to be incredibly influential and a real force in pressuring the Academy to diversify. What about the issue of sexism? Women have to make up 50% of the nominees, so from face value many don't see this as an issue, but when you look a little closer the institutionalised sexism is apparent. Women have only received 19% of the non-acting nominations over the past 10 years. 12 films directed by women have been nominated for best picture...no not in the last few years, ever.
The 683 invitations mark a (long overdue) step. Hopefully those new members will be on the same wavelength as Brie Larson who tweeted "I got in! Excited to use my vote to nominate talent that reflects the real world we live in- Diversity'. The Oscars are seen by many as prestigious and the ultimate acting accolade, if they can lead the way in diversifying then hopefully the industry as a whole will respond to this call for more representation in film.
What do you think about the new members? Are the Oscars taking a positive step in combating bias or are they merely employing tokenism to avoid another media frenzy?
Photo Credit: Pinterst
Videot Credit: Oscars Youtube
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