We Need To Support The #OscarsSoWhite Movement With Our Money

I'm not surprised that #OscarsSoWhite is trending. I'm not surprised that there has been an uproar in the face of the revealed nominations and the lack of diversity among them. I'm not surprised that people are applauding Viola Davis for her wise insight into the issue. 

Because, guess what—The whiteout of the Oscars two years in a row is a problem. And it's indicative of a larger conversation.

I don't want to let the Academy completely off the hook, but as Viola said, this is a bigger conversation than just the Oscars. Viewers love to use whatever's trending to throw a protest, and there's nothing wrong with protesting. But we need to back it up. We need to take a permanent stance. If viewers are upset that there aren't more non-white nominations in the Oscars, they need to be mad, every day, that there aren't more diverse films being made. They need to be mad, every day, when actors of color are paid less than their white counterparts. 

We have the power of our spending money to aid us in this protest. The average movie-goer may not think they have any power in the creation of movies, or in who is hired to produce, write, direct or act in these movies. But we do! We can vote with our money, by showing the industry that we'll pay for diverse content. 

We need to take #OscarsSoWhite and go beyond one protest, transforming that momentum into a full-on powerful movement for more diversity in the entertainment industry across the board: more people of color, more LGBTQ+ people, more women, more disabled people. 

In order for the Oscars to change and the Academy to change, we need a disruption of the movie entertainment industry. The Academy is committed to changing by recruiting diversity in their membership, but the entire industry needs to catch up, and fast. 

Viewers wield more power than we think we do, because the industry wants to make money. Historically, the industry has relied on market research to decide whether a venture is worth pursing. If the research shows that queer women don't spend money on products, it won't be a priority to advertise to them. If the research shows that upperclass white men are the ones spending the most money, that's who will be advertised to.

In addition to voicing our concerns, loudly and clearly, about the lack of diversity, we need proof to back it up. We need to show that we're willing to pay money for movies that are filled with rich, diverse representation. We need to prove that a movie produced by people of color acted predominently by actors of color will draw an audience. The same can be said for any other kind of representation viewers are hungry for: women in all areas of movie production, LGBTQ+ characters, disabled actors playing disabled characters, mental illness portrayed for more than the butt of a joke, stories about lower-income people...The list goes on and on. 

When toy companies released Star Wars game sets without Rey, the #WheresRey hashtag heated up, and critics across the internet were furious that the main character had been left out, likely because of her gender. People took action to go along with their online protests, by writing letters to the toy production companies and boycotting their products. It caused toy companies and marketers to retaliate and understand they'd made a mistake: Consumers were angry. They decided to release a new version of the Star Wars Monopoly with Rey included. We can replicate that kind of responsibility for diversity in the entertainment industry. 

We can't let the momentum die down after the Academy's decision to diversify their membership. We can't let it die down after the Oscars season passes. We can't let it die down next week, or next month, until we see accurate representation of all people on our screens. If we really care about it, we need to keep the momentum and prove that we mean what we say.