#OscarsSoWhite: The Anything but Trendy Trend in Hollywood

As I’m sure you’ve all heard, when the 2016 Oscar Nominations were released a little over a week ago they were greeted with more backlash than bravos. For two consecutive years now, the Academy’s four acting categories - Best Actor and Actress, and Best Supporting Actor and Actress - feature an exclusively all-white cast of Oscar hopefuls

An initial instinct may resemble a mixture of bewilderment and shock: what about Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation? Did anyone see Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson in Creed? No nomination for Will Smith in Concussion? How about Benicio del Toro from Sicario? Not to mention completely snubbing Straight Outta Compton as a contender for Best Picture. Naming only a few of the many deserving actors and actresses from an array of ethnic backgrounds, people are now beginning to respond not with perplexed questions, but instead with rightfully placed anger.

This anything but trendy trend in Hollywood is causing internet rage (just check out the trending Twitter hashtag #OscarsSoWhite) and equally dissapointed celebrity reactions: namely, the growing list of stars planning on boycotting this year’s Academy event.

Jada Pinkett Smith was one of the first actress-directors to speak out on the issue in a series of tweets last week, with husband Will Smith following suit.

“The nominations reflect the Academy. The Academy reflects the industry [Hollywood] and then the industry reflects America," he said. "There is a regressive slide towards separatism, towards racial and religious disharmony and that’s not the Hollywood that I want to leave behind. That’s not the industry, that’s not the America I want to leave behind.” 

Spike Lee, another one of the many revered participants in this growing movement against attending the Academy Awards, defended his decision to "[make] a stance" to The Times.

This call to action has generated so much traction since its emergence that the Academy’s President, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, issued a statement addressing the controversy on behalf of the organization. 

“The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up,” she stated. “These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition.”

According to their official website, the aforementioned changes will include "immediate action to increase diversity by adding new members who are not Governors to its executive and board committees where key decisions about membership and governance are made.” You can also read a summarizing statement from the Academy’s Twitter account

Considering that a 2012 Los Angeles Times study found that 94% of Oscar voters are Caucasian, 77% are male, the median voter age is 62, and that Blacks make up 2% of the Academy while Latinos make up less than 2%, there is an undeniable lack of diversity that starts and ends with the Academy itself. With this knowledge, Isaacs' recent statements present some much-needed and promising steps forward in regards to the unlearning of biased voting behaviours within the film industry in favour of granting artistic credit where it is due - we can only hope there is a thorough follow-through on the part of the Academy.

Bear in mind that this contemplative discourse is not limited to race, as Idris Elba so eloquently pointed out before Parliament in London.

"Diversity in the modern world is more than just skin colour," he said. "It's gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, social background, and — most important of all, as far as I'm concerned — diversity of thought. Because if you have genuine diversity of thought among people making TV and film, then you won't accidentally shut out any of the groups I just mentioned.” 

Hear, hear! So let’s all take a step back to assess this recurring issue of a lack of variety - of all kinds - and step up in the interest of incorporating diversity within the film industry and beyond, as the results can only provide us all with enriching and rewarding art. 

 

Images obtained from:

https://twitter.com/marksluckie/status/687636253194489856/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

http://www.avclub.com/article/academy-announces-major-overhaul-response-oscarsso-231169

http://variety.com/2015/film/news/idris-elba-beasts-of-no-nation-james-bond-1201647994/