For the second year running, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has released a list of Oscar nominations with not a single black or brown person acknowledged for a major award (and most of the minor awards, too). You’d have thought that the Academy members would have learned from the original #OscarsSoWhite scandal last year, but here we are - #OscarsSoWhiteRoundTwo.
A few people I’ve spoken to asked ‘what’s the big deal? It’s a merit thing; maybe there were that many great movies this year, and those with black actors just didn’t make the cut?’
Let’s be honest. That stance wouldn’t really hold up to any serious scrutiny anyway, but even less so when the Screen Actors Guild Awards nominated a slew of amazing and diverse talent, giving recognition to Idris Elba for his role in Beasts of No Nation, and again for Luther, Uzo Aduba for her role as ‘Crazy Eyes’ in Orange Is The New Black, and Viola Davis for How To Get Away With Murder. Leonardo DiCaprio also won for his role in The Revenant, but then again, he’s just as likely to miss out on an Oscar for it, isn’t he?
It would seem that TV is a damn sight better for diversity than film. It’s not for a lack of talent – it’s a lack of recognition that is the issue with the Academy. It’s 2016 – people of colour should not be passed over when they deserve recognition.
So why is the Academy so notoriously rubbish (with some serious racist undertones)? Someone once said that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was like the Rockies, because ‘the further up you go, the whiter it gets’. And this isn’t wrong. When having a nosey at the stats for diversity amongst Academy members, you find that in 2012, 94% of Academy members were white; 77% were male, and 86% aged 50 or over, with the median age being 62. The board of Academy members is made up of 43 people, only one of which is a person of colour, and only 6 of which are women.
"when massive movies like Straight Outta Compton are simply relegated to the Original Screenplay category, this systematic snubbing is getting ridiculous"
Do we still think that with a membership that is typically pale, male and stale, that the nominations are fairly allocated and still based solely on merit? When films like Selma are ignored, with the incredible David Oyelowo being snubbed in the Oscar nominations last year, and this year, when massive movies like Straight Outta Compton are simply relegated to the Original Screenplay category, this systematic snubbing is getting ridiculous.
The Academy have responded to the ongoing diversity scandal with a pledge to increase diversity within its membership, aiming to have more women and people of colour by 2020. To which I say – that’s cute, but it’s not enough. Things need to change, and faster.
With ongoing scandals in the entertainment industry, such as Joseph Fiennes being cast as Michael Jackson, Oscar-nominee Charlotte Rampling claiming reverse racism (get a grip, honey) and the stunning lack of diversity in the music industry, where black artists are constantly passed over in favour of white ones, the #OscarsSoWhite scandal is integral to raising some awareness. Things need to change. And maybe with Chris Rock hosting the ceremony, they might start to. But we still have a long way to go.