The Oscars Aren't Black and White


Over the past couple of weeks the media has been concentrating on the Academy Awards (Oscars) scandal as it continues to unfold. The Academy has been called out for discriminating against black actors in the upcoming Academy Awards for the second year in a row while claiming to be an “inclusive and diverse” group.

Actors, directors and other public figures have been weighing in on what Spike Lee has called “lily white” awards show. Will Smith and Jada Pickett Smith have led the conversation calling for more diversity. Even President Barrack Obama has chimed in on the conversation and asked, “"Are we making sure that everybody is getting a fair shot?” 


The representation of women and minorities in both the Academy and Hollywood films is not at all representative of the populations. Although the representation of blacks in films has become more to par with their percentage of the population, blacks still make up less than two percent of the Academy. In contrast, they make up 12.3 percent of the US population. 


However, the problem is much bigger than black and white. The representation of Latinos in the Academy, who make up 17 percent of the US population, is less than two percent. Latinos, by the way, make up the largest ethnic/race minority in the US according to the CDC.  Asians, who make up five percent of the US population are also being completely underrepresented in the Academy. They make up less than .5 percent of the Academy. 


This expands the problem far beyond black actors being denied spots in the best actors category and brings up another, less talked about, problem in the Hollywood industry. In the 100 top-grossing films of 2013, only 4.9 percent of roles went to Latino actors and actresses, according to a recent study by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg school. Even worse, the percentage of Latinos getting lead roles has decreased from 2.8 percent in the 2000s to 1.4 percent after 2010, according to “The Latino Media Gap” study by Columbia University. 


The Academy has tried to ease the backlash they’re facing by announcing that the list of presenters and performers for this year’s awards will include Benicio del Toro, Whoopi Goldberg and Kevin Hart amongst others. However, Cheryl Boone Isaacs' attempt to add diversity of women and minorities to the Academy is being branded as “ageist.” The reform will impact mainly older women, since they are the one’s who are largely denied jobs as they age. 


Overall there needs to be a change not only within the Academy but in the movie-making business in general. #OscarsSoWhite has been trending on twitter for the second year in a row, but maybe it should be more like #OscarsSoWhiteAndMale. Whatever happens from here, you can be sure there will be major pushes for change in the industry. If not driven by principle, definitely driven by $$$. 

Diversity is in. Take a hint Hollywood. Even Barbie gets it.