A recent movement to boycott The Oscars following the #OscarsSoWhite backlash has The Academy of Arts and Sciences scrambling to address the accusation that its voter base is consciously or unconsciously racist, or simply ill-equipped to nominate people of color in both acting and direction.
The hashtag received national media attention for the second year in a row following the announcement of The Oscar’s all white nominees in the major acting categories. There was only one non-white nominee in the director’s category, given to Latino Alejandro Iñárritu for his work on The Revenant. Media coverage has focused largely on the lack of black nominees for 2016, due in part to the critical and financial success of many of this year’s black-focused or starring films. Snubs at the heart of the 2016 debate include Creed, Straight Outta Compton, Chi-raq and Beasts of No Nation. However, the larger reality is that other racial communities, including Latinos and Asian-Americans, are also being locked out on almost the same level.
“While we celebrate their extraordinary achievements, I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion. This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes. The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership,” Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in a statement posted to The Oscars official website, as well as the official Twitter on Monday.
Among the many changes Isaacs hopes to implement is an increased number of nominees for voting categories. The goal is getting the voter base to think more broadly and feel less restricted by the unspoken standards of nomination. The acting categories may see a growth from 5 nominees to eight or even 10 while the Best Picture nominees may also rise to 10—a move The Academy made back in 2010 and 2011.
In a change that may better address the underlying issue, The Academy is also considering whether or not to temporarily bar voting by Academy members who have been inactive in film in an effort to encourage more of the 6,000 membership pool to participate.
Although the lack of non-white creatives in the nominee pool isn’t new, it’s also more glaring in our ever-diversifying culture. Not to mention, social media gives every voice an international stage. The issue isn’t that The Oscars are so white, but rather that people can now hold The Academy publicly accountable on an international stage at a time when the country is more diverse than ever.
Some have faulted the industry’s lack of support for and thus production of narratives driven and created by people of color. Many more, however, have pointed to The Oscars’ voting pool, which in 2013 was revealed to be 93% white and 76% male with a median age of 62.
It’s expected that The Academy of Arts and Sciences will announce their official plans as early as next week.