2015 will feature the least diverse list of Academy Awards nominations since 1998. Yes, you read that right. It seems that the Academy is open to honoring anyone in Hollywood for their talent in writing, directing, acting, and editing as long as that person is a straight white man, or when it is necessary, a straight white woman.
As the nominations for the 87th Academy Awards were announced last Thursday, one thing became overwhelmingly obvious: almost everyone was white. Selma, the film chronicling the march of Martin Luther King Jr. and his allies from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, barely made a ripple with just two nominations: one for best picture and one for best original song. Normally this would not be so alarming if it weren’t about the only diversity the Oscars will be having this year.
This is particularly troubling since 2014 was a banner year for diversity in the Oscars, with awards for Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Picture going to “12 Years a Slave”. It’s even worse considering that, for almost two decades, at least one black, Latino, Asian, or Iranian actor has been nominated in one of the four acting categories each year (Duca).
So why is everyone getting so upset about this now? It’s not as if the Academy Awards don’t have a history of discrimination against people of color going all the way back to 1927, when the Awards were invented. They didn’t get much better after thirty years, when Laurence OIivier was nominated for the Best Actor award in 1965 for Othello, a film in which he wore black face and spoke in a cartoonish accent. Can we really expect the Academy to have become more sensitive in just another fifty?
In a word: yes.
While the world is busy becoming more diverse and accepting, the Academy is still trapped back in 1965. According to the Los Angeles Times, voting members of the Academy are 93% white and 76% male, with only 2% of the entire group being black (Desta). This is tragic considering the number of talented people in Hollywood who could be and should be part of the Academy, not to mention the people who deserve awards for their hard work.
What’s worse is that the nominations have come out at a time when Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy, has been pushing for more diversity. “We’re in the second decade of the 21st century, and it’s a whole new environment for entertainment,” Boone Isaacs told Variety. “I think part of this is recognition that there are different voices that need to be heard — and that there are audiences for these different voices. We at the Academy want to be a place where these voices can be recognized,” (Desta).
Unfortunately, her dreams didn’t come into fruition this year. What the Academy and Hollywood should take away from this is that people are ready for more diverse movies and characters that appeal to more than just straight white men and women. Hopefully, somewhere in the near future, they’ll be able to give people what they really want and award people for the hard work they have done.
Desta, Yohana. “Snubbing ‘Selma’: The 2015 Oscars Missed a Chance to Make History.” Mashable. 16 Jan. 2015. Web. 21 Jan. 2015. <http://mashable.com/2015/01/15/oscars-diversity-ava-duvernay/>.
Knoblauch, Max. “Twitter Responds to Whitewashed Oscar Nominations with #OscarsSoWhite.” Mashable. 16 Jan. 2015. Web. 21 Jan. 2015. <http://mashable.com/2015/01/15/oscarssowhite/>.
Duca, Lauren. “This Will Be The Whitest Oscars Since 1998.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 15 Jan. 2015. Web. 21 Jan. 2015. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/15/whitest-oscars_n_6466052.html>.