On January 14, the day Oscar nominations were announced, I wrote about the persistence of the academy’s diversity problem as partly reflected by an acting field with 20 white contenders for the second year in a row. (The Oscars also still have a big gender problem, though that criticism hasn’t received as much attention this year thanks to the inclusion of films like “Room,” “Brooklyn” and “Mad Max: Fury Road” in top categories.)
Suffice it to say I wasn’t the only writer or commenter on the internet who noticed, and the #OscarsSoWhite debate began anew, and perhaps with even more fervor after two years of the same, especially given some of the credible, high-profile contenders left out of the mix (Idris Elba in “Beasts of No Nation,” Benicio Del Toro in “Sicario,” Will Smith in “Concussion” and Michael B. Jordan in “Creed,” to name a few). Spike Lee, who won an Honorary Oscar last fall, and Jada Pinkett Smith have both announced plans to snub this year’s ceremony. What do you think?
Our forum posters are discussing diversity at the Oscars, in the academy and in Hollywood at large. Read some of their comments below and then click here to join the discussion.
surpriselover: I agree with increasing the [academy] membership as long as the people invited to join are held up to the caliber of past invitees. As far as the exclusivity question, anything under 10,000 would be exclusive enough for it to still mean something being invited!
DS0816: Whatever the number of increases, whatever the new total number of individuals who would be academy voters, get it to closely reflect the nation with respect for the racial demographics. (I would also do that for the two genders; women outnumber men.)
DamianWayne: Another thing the academy should do, and I think would do a great job with, is encourage more diversity in Hollywood as a whole. For instance, I looked at the invite list for film editors the past ten years and it’s so staggeringly white and male. I couldn’t even count on both fingers the number of minorities who were invited. The academy should work with the guilds, film schools, high school arts programs, etc. Offer scholarships, internships, etc. Give people a reason to join the industry. Just look at the Student Academy Awards this year. Way more diverse than the actual AA nominees. It works!
mafro987: Why is there an implication that an increase in minority voters will vote for minority actors? This is an artificial way of facilitating diverse nominations. Change needs to come from the studios, and the screening process needs to be revamped — how can the voters give Idris Elba a nomination if no one saw “Beasts of No Nation”?
Baby Clyde: The academy shouldn’t reflect society, it should reflect the film industy, and unfortunately at the moment it is overwhelmingly white and male. The answer, as suggested above, is for the academy to do everything in its power to encourage diversity in all its divisions.
PoweR: Especially after arguing that the reason Idris Elba was snubbed was because his movie was a Netflix exclusive, that’s exactly why there needs to be a change within the academy. They’re boring, safe and behind the times. While other award shows are trying to adapt to the various changes of technology, they are still latching onto their old, mundane ways of thinking. The Emmys implemented the online voting for members, the Grammys trimmed down unnecessary categories, and other award shows are finding ways to adapt to the times. The Oscars need to start doing the same before they become irrelevant.
BrianaBreeze: As far as the #OscarssoWhite, it is alarming that it is the second year in a row that no diversity has been acknowledged across the board with blacks, Latinos, Asians or other people of color. After the backlash they recieved last year with the 20 acting nominees being all white, it would make some voters think that they can improve upon adding more diversity to their categories. While it is disappointing that some voters are out of touch with the world where it is more diverse, it is not a surprise and a tradition they have done for decades.
24Emmy: I can’t take this #OscarsSoWhite thing seriously. How can I? They never talk about diversity when black actors are nominated. Nothing about the lack of Asian and Latino nominees. Why don’t they get the same attention? Are they not important? Isn’t this about diversity?
Chaplin5674: In Viola Davis‘s Emmy speech, she said “You can’t win an Emmy for roles that simply aren’t there.” This is not a problem with the academy; it is a problem with the industry. I cannot stress this enough, and I can’t help but feel frustrated that such prominent black filmmakers are fighting the right fight against the wrong person.
JohnLiu: This time around the fault lays squarely with the critics and the academy at large. The critics are a bunch of hypocrites. They raved about a number of non-white performances. Yet when it came time to vote for their annual awards (and I don’t just mean Critics’ Choice) little to no support was shown.
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Photos: Spike Lee by Michael Buckner/Variety/REX