The Academy President's New Statement Responding To Oscar Diversity Backlash Is An Improvement, But It's Still Not Enough
If you've been enraged about the lack of diversity among this year's Oscar nominations, you're not alone. This year, the categories of Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress (the biggest of the awards show) included only white performers — a sad turn of events that sparked well-deserved backlash on social media. After all, this was the first time in 17 years that a person of color wasn't nominated in an acting category. Luckily, though, there's another person who agrees that things need to change: the Academy president. Though her previous statement regarding the lack of diversity amongst Oscar nominees this year was a major disappointment that seemed to deny there was an issue, Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs released another statement responding to the Oscar diversity backlash that was, thankfully, a much more promising one to hear. In comments made to The Associated Press, Boone Isaacs stated:
In the last two years, we've made greater strides than we ever have in the past toward becoming a more diverse and inclusive organization through admitting new members and more inclusive classes of members. And, personally, I would love to see and look forward to see a greater cultural diversity among all our nominees in all of our categories.
However, while this statement is a huge improvement compared to the last one — and it's great that she agrees that diversity is important — it's still disappointing that this happened in the first place. She claims that the Academy is "committed to seeking out diversity of voice and opinion," especially when it comes to women and artists of color; yet this year's nominations speak for themselves, and tell a way different story.
Although a majority of the categories are white-washed (and male-centric), Boone Isaacs pointed out that Selma is nominated for Best Picture and how that shouldn't be forgotten. She says,
What is important not to lose sight of is that Selma, which is a fantastic motion picture, was nominated for best picture this year, and the best picture category is voted on by the entire membership of around 7,000 people.
Yes, Selma did deserve its nomination! But I'd be all the more excited about the Best Picture nom if the men and women who starred in the movie — and those behind the scenes — received acknowledgment as well. With no nomination for director Ava DuVernay, it's hard to be overly cheerful. Did you know that in the Oscars' 87-year history, only four women have ever been nominated for Best Director?
And only one of them actually won. That's a horrific statistic.
Still, at least it's promising that the Academy's president changed her tune since she last spoke out. Earlier in the week, Boone Isaacs didn't acknowledge the diversity problem — instead, this is what she said in an interview with Vulture when questioned about it:
Not at all. Not at all…The good news is that the wealth of talent is there, and it’s being discussed, and it’s helpful so much for talent — whether in front of the camera or behind the camera — to have this recognition, to have this period of time where there is a lot of publicity, a lot of chitter-chatter.
Hmm, prioritizing publicity over diversity isn't the best approach, is it? Especially since Cheryl Boone Isaacs is the first black president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. While it's awesome that she made history in that way, it'd be all the more incredible if she set even more of a precedent by speaking out and saying the lack of diversity needs to change. Not just that she would "love to see" a change, but that she plans to make it happen.
Fingers crossed that all of this year's "chitter-chatter" really does spark change in next year's noms.
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