As the film award season came to a close with the Oscars on February 22nd, many people had been reflecting on social progress and stagnation throughout Hollywood and in awards nominations. When the Oscar nominations were announced on January 15th, many were disappointed with the lack of diversity.
This year, all twenty of the acting nominees are white, and all the directors and writers nominated are male. Although no one is sure about whether this is because of discrimination, the level of exclusiveness is seen as evidence for slightly racist and sexist movie and awards industries.
Hollywood has often been criticized for being too exclusive, with actresses often appearing in overly sexualized and supporting roles, as well as with nonwhite actors being stereotyped and limited to small roles. In this instance, some responded to the nominations by using social media to express their dismay and frustration, using the hashtag, “#OscarsSoWhite”.
In particular, people were surprised to see that Selma, directed by Ava DuVernay, was only nominated for Best Picture despite the enormously positive audience and even critic reviews.
Some pointed out that for a film to be nominated for Best Picture, it must be extraordinary in the other categories, such as cinematography, directing, and talent of actors and actresses. People also did not understand why the Academy snubbed Ava DuVernay in the Best Director category.
Critics of this point of view reference the common belief that awards nominations often result in “huh?” moments; there are always some nominations or winners that simply don’t make sense to the audience.
For decades now, people have wondered why Leonardo DiCaprio has never won an Oscar. It has become a simple fact now that seemingly deserving people don’t always receive awards.
Although we will never truly know if the Oscars nominations are a direct result of discrimination, people have pointed to the demographics of the voters within the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Those who vote for Oscar nominations are overwhelmingly male, 94% white, and at an average age of 62.
Clearly, this does not reflect a lot of diversity of gender, race, or age. Perhaps one way to both increase the relevance and decrease the discrimination of the Academy would be to diversify the members.
Cheryl Boone Isaacs, current president of the Academy, said that the uproar over nominations has inspired her to make the Academy more inclusive, as well as that it is “committed to seeking out diversity of voice and opinion.” This gives many hope that future Oscars will not only be more diverse, but also more reflective of our current society.