If the conversation around the lack of diversity amongst Oscar nominees hasn't already proved that the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences needed to change the policies regarding Academy membership and voting, the Academy's FAQ about their recent policy change really hammered the point home. According to The Wrap reported, on Monday night, the Academy posted a FAQ on their website, that addressed the policy changes announced on Friday by Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs.
The changes were announced on Friday, along with a pledge to double the number of women and minorities in the AMPAS by 2020. The FAQ was to clarify exactly why it was necessary to change their policies in order to admit more members of minorities to the Academy — and many of the answers definitely reiterated why the AMPAS needed to necessitate these urgent changes.
Announced to Academy members in an email on Monday, the AMPAS said of the FAQ: "These new measures are meant to uphold our longstanding mission that Oscars are voted on by active members in the motion picture industry. They are also meant to be fair and inclusive in their definition of an active member of our community.” Here are a few important takeaways from the FAQ that prove exactly why the AMPAS' changes were necessary:
1. No One Is Being Excluded From Voting
One of the questions the FAQ poses is: "Why is the Academy excluding older members from voting?" And the short response is: "We're not excluding older members from voting."
Many of the answers re-explained the new policies, and how to qualify for membership/lifelong voting rights. In short, the Academy has instated a policy of having to work for three 10-year terms, or being nominated for/be the recipient of an Oscar. So, don't worry, old people in the Academy (which seems like there are many of among the current 6,261 members).
2. This Change Is Necessary
Again, many of the FAQ questions addressed the fact that the very reason these policy changes were set in motion was for inclusion and diversity. In response to a question about clarifying what the Academy means by "being active in motion pictures," they stressed in their answer: "The intention is to be inclusive." Meaning, to make more room in the Academy, they have to change their standards to "widen the net" (the AMPAS' own phrasing), which means everyone must qualify and meet the same parameters.
In other words, moving towards inclusion of more minorities in the Academy means that, hopefully, the hierarchy of the Academy will be dismantled (at least, somewhat: it's a long entrenched problem that is going to take a long time to fix).
3. And They Explained Why The Change Is Necessary
One question posed is simply, "Why were these changes made at all?" The response:
We want the Oscars to be voted on by people who are currently working in motion pictures, or who have been active for a long time. There are a number of Academy members, however, who had brief careers and left the business. We want to strengthen, uphold, and maintain the credibility of the Oscars with these new criteria.
Voting for the Oscars is a privilege of membership, not a right.
Thank goodness they invoked the P-word — "privilege." No one is entitled to lifetime membership to the AMPAS anymore, because that exclusivity is exactly what has blockaded progress and inclusion for so long.
(Also, many props to the Academy in the FAQ using the word "inclusion" more than diversity. Perhaps they took note of director Ava DuVernay's speech on Sunday at Sundance when she said, "I hate the word diversity; it's become too medicinal," and she offered the alternatives "belonging and inclusion" to replace "diversity." Saying outright that there's an inclusion problem gets to the heart of the emotional aspect of the issue.)
4. Important Changes Are Being Made To The Board
One of the most crucial (and commendable) changes the Academy is making is to their governing board: "We’ve created three new governor seats, to be nominated by the president, and voted on by the board. These three seats will be filled by women and people of color, and the changes will take place in February." That is soon! I don't know about you, but I am buzzing with excitement to see who is on the board.
5. The Worst Question Has The Best Answer
The most revealing question asked was the last one in the FAQ: "But why lower standards to get new members?" Of course, this question egregiously misses the point of the Academy's changes in the first place. The Academy's answer to that question was blunt, and almost a burn, which I appreciate:
We are not lowering any standards, we’re widening our net.
All of these are substantive changes that will open up our governance to a wider range of members and have a significant and positive impact on the Academy. The result will be a membership that is more inclusive of the motion picture community, governance that is more representative of our membership, and a stronger Academy overall.
I have to say: Finally. This is the kind of rhetoric I've been waiting for from the Academy. However, it should be remembered that talk is one thing — these changes need to happen fast, and in a big way, for the Academy to maintain that credibility they are touting. It will definitely be interesting to see how exactly the 2016 ceremony goes down in light of these changes, and especially how things turn out in 2017.