This is a definite hot topic right now due to the lack of diversity seen within the nominations in recent years of the Academy Award Nominations. Now the Oscars have been known as THE award for movies, actors and every other facet of the movie industry.
Before I go any further I want to be clear that I am not saying that there is racism that is tainting the awards or that there is not. I am simply trying to be devil’s advocate in whereas this topic is concerned.
My first reaction was to research how the nominations are made. All members within a specific branch, actors, directors, etc. are to vote on their choices for nominees. All members of the Academy can vote on nominees for Best Motion Picture. To become a member you must be A. Invited by the Academy or B. Be sponsored for membership by two members who are in the same branch for which membership is sought.
In 2012 the Los Angeles Times did a survey and found “that academy voters are markedly less diverse than the movie-going public, and even more monolithic than many in the film industry may suspect. Oscar voters are nearly 94% Caucasian and 77% male, The Times found. Blacks are about 2% of the academy, and Latinos are less than 2%.”. They go on further to add “The Times found that some of the academy’s 15 branches are almost exclusively white and male. Caucasians currently make up 90% or more of every academy branch except actors, whose roster is 88% white”.
So the bulk of diversity is found within the actor branch of the Academy. My initial thought on this is that maybe the white actors just had better performances. This is not a wholly implausible scenario. I mean for myself would I want a nomination or award because I had a performance worthy of it or do I want it because there is some necessary diversity quota that is to be met?
I do not claim nor have I ever as far as I can remember seen every movie made in a particular Academy Award year. So for me as a fan of movies it is highly unlikely for me to watch 305 movies. (This is the number of movies that qualified for best picture for this year’s Oscars) I think even if I had nothing better to do I would still struggle with watching 305 movies. So how about an Oscar voter? Do you think they have time to watch 305 movies in a year? My gut says it is highly unlikely.
This makes me think then how do you stand out in a large amount of movies? I once again defer to how I choose what movies to watch and pass on. Marketing and word of mouth have a lot to do with what movies I choose. As well as my interests and preferences. In any given year I am lucky to have seen ONE of the final nominees much less all of them. I think in the case of academy voters there is a similar process enter another potential influence: Politics.
Now I am not talking democrat/republican politics I am talking about politics from within the Academy itself. Movies have been known to take out full page ads promoting their product and begging for nominations in trade publications. Think of how politics/politicians work for the government. Now take that and apply the same behaviors and apply them to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Just a theory but it certainly makes sense… I mean while several nominees each year for best picture are well known there are always those that I have to question. I have not heard of the movie, seen the movie much less have no information what so ever about the movie. Yet there it is nominated for Best Picture.
So when taking into consideration the sheer amount that goes into even attaining a nomination for best picture (with 305 movies) to the acting which the amount of nominees can increase significantly, it is possible that the nominated actors and actresses simply put the best performances forth that the majority of the voters have seen. To tread a bit on thin ice here… movies were being batted around like Straight Outta Compton, Concussion, Creed etc. as having been snubbed for acting/picture Oscars. I have not seen any of these films because for the biggest reason they do not appeal to me. As a white male does this make me racist? ignorant? or more simply I want to invest time in movies that appeal to me?
So while I do not personally think that the Academy Awards are being racist, I think that if diversity is to be found in the nominations there first needs to be diversity among the membership of the Academy. I do believe in this day an age for a statistic of 94% white when there is a wealth of talent from a diversified ethnicity is appalling, and the academy needs to improve their statistics drastically. For me I do not see this as racism, but merely a desperate need to ensure that all races, genders, etc are equally represented in the voting majority of the Academy.
If the Academy is going to continue on its pledge of awarding the best in movies, they need to ensure that all movies get a fair shot. Not just the movie preferences of the majority of their current voters. (I refer back to my reasoning for not watching some of the movies that were “snubbed”) Yes maybe I should be more open to watching more diverse movies vs. Comic Book, Sci Fi and Horror but I enjoy what I enjoy and should not be faulted for that, much less labeled racist or ignorant. I feel the same can be said about the majority of the Academy voters.
I can promise you this, the outcome of this issue will go one of two ways or even both ways… 1. There will start being token nominations, or 2. There will be increased diversity in the membership of the Academy and the diversity that is craved in nominations will right itself. The second of the two will take time due to getting a current voting membership from 94% white to a representation that will reflect all races equally(especially considering how difficult it is to get into the academy). You also have to take into consideration that the Academy has been around since a time when diversity was not something that was considered a necessity.
So is there blatant racism running rampant through the Academy? or is there more simply a lack of diversity from within?