Lack of diversity in Oscars leads to controversy

Every Oscars acting category is white

Are the Oscars really so white?

For the second year in a row, the Oscar ballot features only white contenders in the acting categories. This while strong performances by black actors, including Michael B. Jordan (Creed) and Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation), are snubbed by the academy.

The re-occurrence of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy—last year the exclusion of Selma caused a backlash—inspired everyone from Jada Pinkett-Smith to Spike Lee to speak out and boycott the Oscars. Others, to put it charitably, took different stances. I’m looking at you, Charlotte Rampling!

While a campaign to diversify the Oscars has been heating up over the last two years, the awards’ whiteness has always been a problem. Instead of meaningfully addressing this lack of diversity, Hollywood seems to love to pat itself on the back for the Academy wins of Denzel Washington and Halle Berry in who both won best leading actor and actress in 2001.

After a month of controversy and frustration over the lack of diversity in the nominations, a lot can still be said about the film industry and its acceptance of prominent black actors and actresses. There are promising signs of change.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs is a key figure in this conversation because she is the first African-American to be elected president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). In an interview with the Associated Press last year, Boone Isaacs said that those behind the Oscars are “committed to seeking out diversity of voice and opinion.” Well, judging by this year’s slate of nominees, not a lot has changed yet.

Still, I believe someone like Leonardo DiCaprio, a prominent white actor, who is nominated for his role in The Revenant, should be the first to boycott the Oscars. DiCaprio has been snubbed from winning the golden statue after multiple nominations over his career. He is the present day poster child for Oscar snubs. Every few years, he is in a major movie release, gets nominated and falls short of winning.

The Oscars should simply be about choosing the best film, not choosing the best non-white person in a movie to please a specific demographic.

The simplest solution would be to create a more diverse nomination process that celebrates the diversity in the film industry from all races. And it seems as though that change is on the way.

Following this year’s controversy, AMPAS announced big changes to its membership practices. Included in the announcement was a goal of committing “to doubling the number of women and diverse members of the Academy by 2020.”

“The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up,” said Boone Isaacs in a statement.

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Lack of diversity in Oscars leads to controversy