How White Will the Oscars Be This Year? | The American Word

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How White Will the Oscars Be This Year?

#OscarsSoWhite may make an unwelcome comeback


By
Kelly McDonnell | 12/15/17 8:55am


Kimberly Cataudella /
American Word Magazine

Overwhelmingly
white Oscar nominations across Academy categories are a trend that celebrities
like Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee urged hundreds of people to denounce in
2016. But were the boycotts and trending hashtag #OscarsSoWhite enough? This
year, speculated nominations for Academy Awards are shaping up to be
inordinately white – again.

The
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was quick to commit itself to
“doubling the number
of women and diverse members by 2020,” according to a vote taken by the Board
of

Governors
in 2016. The 2017 Oscar nominations even seemed to show the Academy’s turn
around. A record number of black actors were nominated in every acting
category, in addition to 9 films with non-white subjects. Dev Patel was the
first Indian actor to be nominated in 13 years.

People
praised the Academy for the “overwhelming” diversity welcomed by the
nominations. Yet, in the 89 years of Academy Awards, no black artist has ever
won best director, and zero documentaries by black women have ever won.

In a
pledge to commit to increasing diversity, the
Academy re-organized its voting board with the addition of 638 members of
various ethnicities, ages and gender identities.

So
it seemed, for the 2017 Oscars, that the Academy was taking grandiose strides
towards diverse nominations and membership. But that is not the case.

“Dunkirk,”
directed by Christopher Nolan, has no main actors of color. “Battle of the
Sexes” starring
Emma Stone and Steve Carrell, is white-centric. “Wonderstruck,” directed
by Todd Haynes,
whose lead actors are all white, is seated for a couple nominations. The list
continues.

Entertainment
Weekly compiled 35 films that have reputability to become nominated for
awards, and an uncomfortable majority of them feature no lead actors of color.
“Get Out,” directed
by Jordan Peele, “Wonder Woman” directed by Patty Jenkins, “Beguiled” directed
by another
female director, Sofia Coppola, and “Detroit” directed by Kathryn Bigelow are
four valuable
mentions for nominations that represent diversity positively.

However,
it is hardly representative of which actors and what films should be nominated
to fulfill the Academy’s commitment to celebrating diversity.

This
lack of representation forecasts another #OscarsSoWhite storm. But perhaps
focus should be shifted away from the Academy, and towards production companies
that don’t invent new roles for actors of color – or hire female directors,
Asian cinematographers, Middle Eastern screenwriters, and Black animators.

Joel
Gershon, a professor at American University’s School of Communication,
responded to the hashtag by acknowledging that “if there’s a lack of diversity,
someone’s going to notice it.”

In 2017, how is it acceptable that films can feature no
actors of color while our nation’s population continues to diversify?
While the Academy should be
held accountable for its responsibility to nominate and support film personnel
of color, cinema goliaths who produce film must realize their role in
celebrating diversity. Camryn Anderson, a freshman in the School of Public
Affairs, says that the film industry “isn’t making room” for people of color,
but it needs to.

#OscarsSoWhite
was a movement that called out bias, and visible progress was made.
“Moonlight,” a film with a Black centric cast, story and production crew won
Best Picture last year. But it’s not enough. The hashtag may trend again if the
2018 Oscar nominations aren’t as inclusive as the Academy promised they would
be.

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However,
this movement sparked a step to reversing the neglect of diverse talent within
Hollywood. It’s important to urge those involved in the film industry to
celebrate people of color. Diversity in film is not just inclusive, it is
necessary.