Cassidy Quinn ’17
When the 2016 Oscar nominees were released, a familiar Twitter trend resurfaced – the same trend that was created when the 2015 Oscar nominations were released – #OscarsSoWhite. Many were optimistic that the Academy would make a change after the trend became popular last year, but they were disappointed when not one person of color was nominated for ANY acting category this year. This year will be the worst year for diversity at the Academy Awards at the Oscars since 1998. The Academy has had a reputation for its limited diversity – 94% of members are white, 77% are male, and the average age is 63. There have been 2,947 Oscars awarded over the 87 years it has been in existence, and only 31 of them have gone to people of color (The Huffington Post). And this is not because there have not been actors and actresses of color deserving of an Oscar. Many expected Ava Duvernay to win Best Director in 2015 for “Selma”, yet she was not even nominated. George Clooney has a made a sharp statement to Variety ; “There were four films this year: “Creed” could have gotten nominations; “Concussion” could have gotten Will Smith a nomination; Idris Elba could have been nominated for “Beasts of No Nations;” and “Straight Outta Compton” could have been nominated” (VanityFair.com). He even makes a comment how “For Hispanics, it’s even worse” which many people also forget about in the midst of this controversy. Although Clooney has stated how The Academy is taking a step in “the wrong direction,” he will still be attending the 88th Oscars.
Jada Pinkett Smith, on the other hand, is asking for a boycott of the Oscars. She questioned, “Should people of color refrain from participating altogether? People can only treat us in the way in which we allow” (BuzzFeed). Pinkett Smith posted a video announcing why she will not be attending the Oscars this year, and a few days later her husband, Will Smith, appeared on TV in support of his wife, stating that he will not be attending the award show either.
Lupita Nyong’o, one of the few people of color who has won an Oscar, responded to the lack of racial diversity saying, “It has me thinking about unconscious prejudice and what merits prestige in our culture” (Instagram.com). Hillary Clinton, who is currently running for President, told AOL.com that “The Academy has to catch up with our reality.” President Obama even made a statement to a group of reporters saying that #OscarsSoWhite is “just an expression of this broader issue” (Buzzfeed.com).
Dawn Hudson, the CEO of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, has said that she will be taking measures to make the nomination and voting process more fair, however it is understandable why people are hesitant to believe so. If the Oscar Awards continue on the path they are currently following, it would not be surprising if their ratings started to dip – especially when other awards shows, like the SAG Awards, which took place Jan. 30, are giving actors of color the recognition they deserve.