BY CHRIS HUSSEY
It’s hard to find any award show with the same kind of influence and reputation as the Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars. The annual awards ceremony, held this year on Feb. 28, recognizes achievements in the film industry, as voted upon by the members of the Academy.
The awards given out at the show have so much prestige; there’s really nothing like winning an Oscar. No other statuettes have the ability to make a filmmaker’s or actor’s career like it.
But like so many other influential and overhyped institutions, the Oscars are far from perfect. The show is once again facing criticism for its lack of racial diversity, both in the nominees and the members making the decisions. When the 2016 Oscar nominations were announced on Jan. 14, social media exploded with outrage because all the nominees for the acting awards were white for the second year in a row. Once again, the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite was trending on Twitter as an online rebuttal.
With all that conversation, both in the real world and online, it wasn’t going to take long until people started to take a closer look at one of the most exclusive memberships around. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, best known for hosting the awards show, doesn’t publicly disclose its list of members. The only way to join this elite group is by getting current members to give you a card. However, in 2012, The Los Angeles Times found that 94 per cent of the academy’s members were white.
Of course, the organization has made an effort since then to diversify its membership base and it responded admirably to the criticism it faced by revamping its membership policies. The academy has made it a goal to commit to doubling the number of women and diverse members by 2020, according to a press release issued by the academy.
The Oscars can restructure, but it won’t solve the problem. Manohla Dargis, a New York Times chief film critic, said the lack of racial diversity at the Oscars is a reflection of the industry as whole.
“The primary reason the Oscars are so white this year and most years is that the movie industry is overwhelmingly white,” she said in an article published on Jan. 15. “That’s infuriating, but that’s not shocking.”
It’s for this reason that boycotting the Oscars, like Will Smith and Viola Davis have said they’ll do, isn’t going to solve anything. The Oscars are just a small part of the issue. If we ever want to see more recognition for actors of colour, it is going to take a lot more than that. It’s time we give minorities a chance, and not just stereotypical roles as well. Put them front and centre. Maybe then we will get to see some new characters on the Oscar stage next year.