The Academy Awards might be Hollywood's biggest annual party and its most prestigious event, but the past couple years have seen public attitude toward it turn from tired to somewhat nasty. It's one thing if the show itself always runs for hours and is little more than a glamorous industry patting itself on the back at the core. It's another entirely if those congratulations aren't even fairly administered. Last year, after a predominantly white slate of nominees was released, an #Oscarssowhite hashtag picked up on Twitter. This year, after similar results despite the Academy's promise to diversify, it's back with far more fury than the first time around.
So much so, in fact, that prominent African-Americans in the film industry such as Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith are boycotting the Oscars in protest. Lee posted a long message on his Instagram, asking "How Is It Possible For The 2nd Consecutive Year All 20 Contenders Under The Actor Category Are White?" and Pinkett published a video on her Facebook, calmly stating that all people of color "no longer need to ask to be invited anywhere." Both explicitly said they won't be attending this year's ceremony.
For her part, Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs diplomatically commented that she's impressed with the "wonderful work" of the nominees, but "devastated" at the lack of diversity among them. It's obviously not the fault of any of them, or Isaacs herself, but the fact remains that the 6,300 members of the Academy as a whole are failing to recognize talent outside a pretty narrow demographic. That's probably because they're not so diverse themselves.
An oft-cited report by the L.A. Times in 2013 found that Oscar voters are roughly 94 percent white and 77 percent male, with a median age of 62. Of the Academy's 15 branches, some are almost exclusively all white and all male, and in total black members make up 2 percent of the voting body, whereas Latino members are less than 2 percent.
This year's crop of prestige films with nonwhite actors, directors, and more who got snubbed include Concussion, Creed, Straight Outta Compton, and Beasts of No Nation. While that's a decent sampling of great performances by black actors, the Razzie nominations prove the problem is that there just aren't enough roles out there for nonwhite actors in general. Even the horrible films aren't providing enough roles for people who aren't white.
To be fair, it takes time to enact change in any organization that has such a long track record of diversity issues. From the reaction to a second straight #Oscarssowhite year, though, it's clear that change needs to be accelerated.
Cover image: Wikimedia