Movie News

Oscar’s Diversity Problem reaches further beyond Academy

Oscar’s Diversity Problem reaches further beyond Academy
Oscars Diversity Problems reaches further beyond Academy 2016 images

Article by Ben Taylor

The lack of diversity in the Academy Award race has been something that’s been brought up time and time again over the decades, but nothing ever gets resolved. Back in 2001, the Academy congratulated it profusely for having Halle Berry win for “Monster’s Ball” and Sydney Poitier received a special award; plus a documentary film about a mixed race artist (“Thoth”) also won. Three wins in one night, and it seemed that took care of the ‘diversity’ issue in Hollywood for a while.

Now it’s back for the second year in a row, and more people are standing up and taking notice. The big issue is that they seem to be taking notice in the wrong direction as the Oscars are the end product. The factory that pumps out the product has more to do with this than anything.

It had been going so well. In 2014, the Academy Awards rolled out a (somewhat) diverse list of nominees, including Steve McQueen (director), Chiwetel Ejiofor (lead actor) and Barkhad Abdi (supporting actor). Lupita Nyong’o (supporting actress) and John Ridley IV (screenwriter) were also nominated, each winning Oscars for their contributions to “12 Years a Slave.”

Fast forward two years, however, and the world’s most prestigious movie awards show has gone nearly all white. Last year, African-American director Ava DuVernay (“Selma”) failed to earn a nod, while the film’s star — David Oyelowo — was also ignored.

This year, the omissions are arguably, even more, blatant. The critically acclaimed “Straight Outta Compton” featured standout acting performances (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) and strong direction (F. Gary Gray), each from a person of color. But the film was only nominated for its screenplay.

“Creed” received even better reviews, featuring the directing talents of Ryan Coogler and acting star power of Michael B. Jordan (previously, “Fruitvale Station”). The film received only a supporting actor nomination for Sly Stallone.

The kicker? The nominated writers for “Compton” and supporting actor for “Creed” are all white. Our friends at Pretty Famous have pulled together the diversity issue demographics to give a much clearer picture.

In fact, among the seven biggest award categories at the 88th Academy Awards — including acting, directing and writing — 95.3 percent of nominees are white.

Compare the current slate of nominees to the demographic makeup of America:

It’s tempting to assign all the blame to voters at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The exclusive group includes more than 5,000 members of the film industry, mostly old and mostly white. To even be considered for membership, the Academy outlines a series of requirements, including quantity and quality of film credits and a history of previous awards. Still, the final decision remains in the hands of various “Branch Executive Committees,” regardless of a candidate’s track record.

Add it up, and the Los Angeles Times estimates 93 percent of Academy membership is white (as of 2013), although the Academy does not release an official list.

But to pile on to the academy exclusively is to miss the larger, more intractable problem: Hollywood itself is overwhelmingly white.

The PrettyFamous team analyzed our database of celebrities to determine the demographic distribution of the rich and famous. Specifically, we looked at Gracenote data for Hollywood celebrities, from famous actors to directors to screenwriters, leading to a final list of about 26,000 people. Note that this list is not an exhaustive portrayal of the film business, but nonetheless provides a broad picture of the industry, with a particular focus on the biggest names and most frequent award winners.

By our estimates, Hollywood itself is about 80 percent white, at least among the actors, directors and writers routinely considered for big parts and highly publicized assignments.

This reality has ramifications at multiple levels. First, the pool of established Hollywood talent is disproportionately white to begin with, meaning that white film professionals are more likely to star in or contribute to each year’s top films. Second, the academy sources its voters from this pool, creating a self-fulfilling cycle of ever more white voters. Third, a homogenous pool of writers, directors and actors lead to like-minded creators, with fewer outside perspectives and less appetite for risk.

Finally, and perhaps most problematic, box office receipts feed off of past success. When the majority of successful films happen to star white actors, filmmakers make even more movies with white actors. There’s a reason we get 13 white, male superhero movies every year, next to just one “Fruitvale Station” or “Straight Outta Compton.” And so we return to the unrepresentative breakdown below.

Based on the Hollywood numbers in the chart above, we’d still expect the Oscars to feature about 20 percent people of color across all award categories, which partially justifies the current pushback. The Academy got a lot closer in 2014, so what’s gone wrong in 2015 and 2016? To the institution’s credit, the Academy pledged to double the number of female and minority members by 2020.

To fix the larger issue. However, Hollywood must fundamentally change its complexion. So long as the Hollywood pool remains disproportionately white, so too will the top films, and, ultimately, the nominees. Even a more diverse academy can’t fix that.

Movie News
@movietvtechgeek

Movie TV Tech Geeks News staff edited stories and team contributions.

More in Movie News

the return of the x men 2017 images

Return of the X-Men

Marius MaronillaMarch 22, 2017
beauty and the beast hold off kong and logan at box office 2017 images

‘Beauty and the Beast’ holds off ‘Kong’ and ‘Logan’ at box office

George CandoMarch 19, 2017
is it really time for a matrix reboot 2017 images

Is it really time for a ‘Matrix’ reboot or did Hollywood run out of ideas?

George CandoMarch 16, 2017
danny boyle talks bringing back trainspotting and why t2 2017 images

Danny Boyle talks ‘Trainspotting’ and why ‘T2’

Shanka CherylMarch 16, 2017
tom hiddleston gets outacted by a gorilla in kong 2017 images

Tom Hiddleston gets outacted by a gorilla in ‘Kong’ review

Marius MaronillaMarch 13, 2017
kong tramples over logan to top box office 2017 images

‘Kong’ tramples over Hugh Jackman’s final ‘Logan’ to top box office

George CandoMarch 12, 2017
Why Tom Jackson Should Play an Orc in 'Hard Powder' 2017 images

Why Tom Jackson Should Play an Orc in ‘Hard Powder’

Shane LambertMarch 12, 2017
Logan Disappointments Made Well 2017 images

‘Logan:’ Disappointments Made Well

Marius MaronillaMarch 8, 2017
hugh jackmans final wolverine logan has huge box office opening 2017 images

Hugh Jackman’s final Wolverine ‘Logan’ has huge box office opening

George CandoMarch 5, 2017

Subscribe to our Daily Newsletter

You will only receive one per day. You'll also get a free THE WALKING DEAD graphic novel with your subscription