If Hollywood were to make a film about Hollywood today they might borrow from the title of the movie, “Blast From The Past."
A major controversy has erupted over this year’s Oscar nominations, as all the nominations in the acting categories are white. Adding to that sad reality is the fact that there are also no women nominated in the directing or writing categories, this despite the fact that the director for “Selma,” a black woman, Ava DuVernay, helmed the picture which did manage to get nominated for “Best Picture.”
This year’s Oscars will be the whitest since 1998 when no people of color were nominated. The controversy even spawned the trending Twitter hashtag #OscarsSoWhite as many people, white and people of color, took to social media to express their surprise and outrage at the slight. And that is an important point as well, because we are not talking about a black and white issue here. Despite the prominence of “Selma” this year, we are not just talking about black actors and directors being overlooked, we are talking about all people of color, from Hispanic to Asian to whatever. None were deemed worthy of nomination. None apparently did a good enough job to warrant honor.
That is just ridiculous.
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It is even more surprising because most of us think of Hollywood as this liberal bastion. The problem partly is that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, whose members are the ones voting for nominees and the winners, is largely an old, white, male organization, no different than you might see in some Southern conservative enclave. All those young, progressive folks you see making up Hollywood are generally the voters.
The Academy voters are 94% white, 77% men and are an average age of 63. Now are you surprised by the Oscar nominations being so white and so male? People tend to vote for stories and people that they can relate to so it is not at all surprising to me that we get years like this. These old white guys just aren’t relating to young Latinos, Blacks, Asians and women. It’s not their perspective.
So what has to happen to change this? As long as the only voters for Oscar nods are Academy members, then the answer has to be that the Academy becomes more diverse, in terms of people of color and in terms of gender and age. Once that happens then you can guarantee the Oscar nominations will be more reflective of the people working in Hollywood.
Ironically, the person who had to respond to this firestorm was Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who is the very first black President of the organization. She was in a tough position, having to stand up for the organization that elected her but also knowing she couldn’t defend the nominations. So her statement was pretty bland.
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"In the last two years, we've made greater strides than we ever have in the past toward becoming a more diverse and inclusive organization through admitting new members and more inclusive classes of members," Boone Isaacs said. "And, personally, I would love to see and look forward to see a greater cultural diversity among all our nominees in all of our categories."
Well, talking about it and doing it are two different things. Those old, white guys aren’t going to give up their influence easily. And until they do, or until diversity is forced on them, we can expect to see the Oscars continue to be a celebration of white achievement.
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