Before the awards show gets started, I’d like to take a moment of your time and discuss the big white elephant that’s going to be in the room tonight. A lot of people upset about the choice of nominees this year because of the lack of diversity. I’m one of them. But until I looked into the history of the Academy I never quite understood how deep the problem ran.
Let’s consider the facts, shall we?
According to the Oscars official website, it all got started in 1927 when MGM Studio Chief Louis Mayer wanted to benefit the film industry. He got together with 36 other people in the creative branches of movies to create the International Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The Academy did things such as publish books on filmmaking and in 1929, hosted its first ever Academy Awards.
Fast forward nearly a century, and the majority of the Academy are middle aged white men. In 2012 the LA Times published their study that nearly 94 percent of the Academy were white and 77 percent male. Before Cheryl Boone Isaacs, an African American woman, became the president of the Academy in 2013, every single president before her was white.
Even though we live in much different times today, the Academy still looks like we live in 1927. Sure, there’s an African American woman at the helm. But it doesn’t really matter when clearly the perspective of the organization is a white one.
Let me go even further still by saying that I can’t even direct all of my frustration at the Academy because honestly it’s just a representation of the system of Hollywood as a whole.
People of color can’t find it as easy to work in front or behind the camera because no one is thinking about them when a movie is being made. According to a study done by the USC Annenburg School for Communication and Journalism, the majority of movies made are by straight white men. As far as acting parts go, 71.1 percent of actors on screen are white, 12.2 percent black, 5.8 percent Hispanic or Latino, 5.1 percent Asian, 2.3 percent Middle Eastern and 3.1 percent other.
Viola Davis said it best- “You can change the Academy, but if there are no no black films being produced, what is there to vote for?”
Other actors ranging from Jada Pinkett Smith to George Clooney have shared her sentiment, so it’s pretty obvious that this issue is catching fire. So now that the Academy has been forced to face this problem, I wonder how they’re going to respond?
Only one way to find out. On with the show.