It’s awards season again and The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recently released shortlists for this year’s Academy Awards. On Tuesday, The New York Times published a column detailing the potential diversity of this year’s nominations, but noted that “the problem isn’t solved” and “some old biases remain.”
After the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite began in 2015, Hollywood started a process of requiring more diversity and inclusion. However, the question remains as to whether or not their efforts will ever be enough for those who find fault with the industry.
In June of last year, the same New York Times columnist wrote a piece titled “After #OscarsSoWhite, the Academy Meets Goal to Diversify Membership.” Another report came a few months later, as the Academy announced additional diversity requirements for best picture films, even though “inclusion goals were met months ago.”
The newest guidelines are supposed to take effect by 2024, and “will require films to meet two of four diversity standards to be eligible for a best-picture nomination.”
The four different standards range from persons to plot. They include stipulations surrounding the actors, crew members, and department heads. There are also conditions on the details of a film’s storyline. The distribution and financing company are also involved in the diversity requirements, including interns. For distribution, production, or financing companies, there must be training and work opportunities provided to people from specified “underrepresented groups.” The fourth and final potential categorical requirement is reportedly “simpler,” and “merely asks that some of the senior marketing, publicity and distribution executives on a film are from an underrepresented group.”
Despite all of these efforts and the likelihood of diversity at the Academy Awards this year, time will tell whether it is adequate for Hollywood’s critics. The columnist acknowledges that “this particular year could produce the most diverse lineup of Oscar nominees ever” but argues that this might result in “Hollywood giv[ing] out those laurels and then rest[ing] on them.”
The writer then points to various examples of a continued lack of diversity, including this year’s Golden Globes nominations and remarks how its most prestigious category — “best drama” — did not include any of “the year’s major Black-led films.”
Audiences may remember last year’s awards ceremony before the pandemic hit, when “Parasite” became the first film not in the English language to win best picture, but the author laments that it still “couldn’t earn a single nomination in the acting categories.”
“Even though a Korean movie has now won best picture at the Oscars, no Korean or Korean-American actor has ever so much as been nominated,” the columnist continues, adding a question as to whether or not the actors of this year’s Korean film “Minari” can “break through those long-held biases.”
According to this columnist, the results of each year’s awards season don’t necessarily prove that progress has been achieved.
No matter what happens this awards season or the next, voters should remember that progress isn’t simply secured — it’s something you have to keep reaching for.
Back in 2014, there were people of color in most of the acting categories, Alfonso Cuarón (‘Gravity’) won the directing Oscar, and Steve McQueen’s ’12 Years a Slave’ took best picture.
The very next year kicked off #OscarsSoWhite.
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