The Academy has once again failed to nominate people of color for major acting categories, causing some leading actors to call for a boycott of the Oscars and its lack of diversity.
Updated at 1:51 PM, Monday, Jan. 25 – Articles have been edited to revise error in the author credits.
An Oscars’ Boycott Will Fail to Address the Dominance of White Culture that Plagues the Entire Film Industry
As #OscarsStillSoWhite circulates through social media, voices from Hollywood, including Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee, are speaking up about integrated racism within the Academy. In fact, Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs issued a statement saying she was “frustrated about the lack of inclusion.” When such a claim is made, internet champions are quick to insist that there are simply no deserving POC nominees this year, and that bringing up race is, in essence, discriminatory. Yet, after a brief look over a list of forty nominations for acting roles — forty white people — chosen by an Academy that is, according to The Atlantic, 94 percent white, 76 percent male and an average age of 63 years old, it is increasingly clear that it is no coincidence for fan favorites like “Straight Outta Compton” to have received so few nominations.
The lack of diversity in Oscar nominees highlights not only the issue with the Academy itself but also the dearth of opportunities offered to actors and actresses of color. According to a study by the University of Southern California, of the top 100 highest-grossing 2014 films, 17 featured non-white leads or co-leads. The breakdown is astonishing: 73.1 percent White, 12.5 percent Black, 5.3 percent Asian, 4.9 percent Hispanic and 4.2 percent Other. These statistics not only emphasize the biases in the media industry but also the need for dimensional roles. Frequently, actors of color are misrepresentations of their cultures, which only furthers racial stereotypes. Take for example Asian-American representation in the mainstream film industry, consisting largely of the token “smart, socially awkward nerd with thick accent” or the objectified sex symbol. With lack of diversification brings untold stories and unheard voices.
The issue with representation is one ingrained within the film industry, not simply isolated to the Oscars. The purpose of film is exponentially greater than to entertain audiences. Film conveys emotion, spreads a vital message and portrays the ideas of generations. It is crucial that diversity is prioritized by the Academy and the films it celebrates through the representation of actors of colors in multidimensional roles. Only then can we gain perspective on the lives and cultures of those around us.
— AARTHI VENKAT Staff Writer
The Lack of Diversity and Minority Representation at the Oscars Has Necessitated a Boycott to Promote Change
Immediately following the Academy announcement of all-white nominees, #OscarsStillSoWhite began trending across social media sites. With many notable actors and directors, including Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith and Mark Ruffalo calling for a boycott of the Oscars in response to a lack of diversity, many viewers are left questioning a beloved and long-standing award show. This boycott is a reasonable reaction to the Academy’s exclusion of minority groups.
Many within the Academy and the film industry have explained that the noticeable absence of color in the nominee selections has little to do with a lack of diversity within the award show, but is representative of the lack of color within Hollywood as a whole. However, there were plenty of notable performances by black actors this year; including Michael B. Jordan for “Creed” and Will Smith for “Concussion.” How can the Academy claim that it didn’t have any options to add diversity when “Straight Outta Compton” had a phenomenal ensemble of black actors and also director F. Gary Gray, yet chose to nominate only the film’s two white screenwriters?
The problem is not a lack of impressive performances by minority actors. The problem is with the membership of the Academy itself, a predominately white institution. With a lack of diversity within the voting pool, it comes as no surprise that there is an absence of minorities within Oscar nominees. The intense social media backlash aimed at the award show has, however proven to be successful, as the Academy has recently announced plans to diversify their membership.
The Academy Awards have long been seen as the epitome of achievement in the cinematic arts. Winning an Oscar not only recognizes the extraordinary performances of an actor/director, but it cements them into film history. The Oscars are watched across the world by millions of people, and this noticeable lack of minority representation on one of the world’s biggest stages sets a definitive tone from the Academy and the film industry. This exclusion is telling minority groups that they do not have a place on the silver screen. An Oscars boycott may be the defining action needed for Hollywood to take a deep look at the films they want to create and the message they want to send to audiences.
— MEGAN MONGES Staff Writer