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The Oscars diversity drama

The Oscars diversity drama

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The Academy Awards is improving diversity seven years after a hashtag criticising the Oscars went viral, but progress is slow.


Transcript

Today, has the Oscar’s finally cracked its diversity problem? 

*** 

The 2022 Oscar nominations have finally been revealed…

CBS

The nominees for the Oscars have been announced and this year’s ceremony is already shaping up to be a night of firsts that breaks records

Iconic filmmaker Steven Speilberg has already broken his own record, getting his 11th best picture nomination for West Side Story. Sir Kenneth Branagh set a new record for the most nominations in the most categories during a career. Beyonce and Kristen Stewart have made their Oscar debuts. 

But, there is one thing that’s still playing on many people’s minds: 

It’s trending again, this OscarsSoWhite hashtag, and there were definitely movies and actors that could’ve been nominated.

CNN

For decades the crisis of diversity at the Oscars had gone unchallenged by the overwhelmingly white, male and American Hollywood establishment.

On the 15th of January 2015 all 20 nominations in acting categories went to white actors. The following year they were all white, again. And the Academy went into crisis mode. 

Megastars like George Clooney and  Mark Ruffalo strongly condemned it for its lack of diversity. Then there was a boycott: 

When I saw the nominations that came out after the second consecutive year, all the 20 nominations and actors have zero people of colour, my wife we said you know we’re not gonna go. 

Spike Lee on Steve TV Show

A slew of actors, directors, writers, producers — who were predominantly black —  decided to sit this one out.

The Academy has the right to acknowledge whoever they choose to invite whoever they choose and now I think that is our responsibility now to make the change maybe it is time that we pull back our resources and we put them back into our communities into our programs. 

Jada Pinkett Smith

In the years since  the OscarsSoWhite hashtag caught light on social media, things have changed. In 2021, the Oscars had its most diverse year, 9 out of the 20 acting nominations went to people of colour.  

So, has the academy managed to build on that this year? 

***

Back in 2016 Will Smith was snubbed. He was thought to be a shoe in for his role in the American football film Concussion. But he lost out to an entirely white list of actors, so he decided to join his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, in the boycott. 

In that year Idris Elba and Michael B Jordan were also snubbed. And Straight Outta Compton, the film about the gangsta-rap group NWA, was only nominated for best original screenplay, a screenplay written by white writers.

But six years later, Will Smith is a two time nominee and could win best actor. And he’s not alone.

Three men of colour, two of them black, have been nominated for best actor. Two black women are also up for best supporting actress. Jane Campion has been nominated for best director — she’s the only woman to be nominated twice in her career in that category. (For context, in the ceremony’s  93 year history, just 7 women have been nominated for best director.)

So clearly something has shifted. But is it enough?

***

Since it started in 1927, the Oscars has gone through a number of transformations but it’s usually when a wider cultural or social shift is happening.And this last decade has been defined by exactly that kind of change.

Protests against Wall Street continued to grow across the country today here in New York thousands of demonstrators descended on the financial district as big labour unions joined.

ABC News

Retailers and fast food chains are bracing for strikes in 50 cities today. Workers say they can’t afford to live on what they’re getting paid so they’re asking for more money and the right to from unions…

CNN

It has been a painful night of violence and protests in Minneapolis. At this hour fires are still burning on the south side of Minneapolis after protesters took the streets to demand justice for George Floyd.

CNN

So to avoid the worst thing that could happen in Hollywood – falling out of favour and being thrown on the scrap heap – the academy has been forced to respond. But reactionary change doesn’t address the underlying problems. 

The Academy, which is the body that decides who’s nominated and who wins, is made up of industry insiders. And as of last year, it is still overwhelmingly white and male. 

33% of active academy members were women, and 19% were from “underrepresented” racial and ethnic minority communities. This is up from 2015, but is it good enough in a country where almost half of the population isn’t white? 

And that is perhaps the crux of the issue: a Hollywood ending for Oscars equality always feels just out of reach. 

Today’s story was written by Nimo Omer and produced by Imy Harper.


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