The Way I See It |2016 Oscars & Diversity

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The Academy Award nominations were announced last week and since then there’s been a lot of talk about the lack of diversity among the nominees for the second year in a row.

Before I dive into this hot button topic, I’d like to present to you my credentials. I’m a cinephile (film zealot freak) and I’m bi-racial (half black).

Now that that’s settled, here are the facts: 

Nominations were announced on January 14. That same day the Academy President, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, released a statement about the lack of diversity among it’s nominees saying, “Of course I am disappointed, but [it is] not to take away the greatness (of the films nominated). This has been a great year in film, it really has across the board. You are never going to know what is going to appear on the sheet of paper until you see it.

Jada Pinket Smith (who’s husband, Will Smith was “snubbed” for a nomination for his role in Concussion) quickly took to her twitter account to say that people of color are welcome to present the awards but aren’t recognized enough for their artistic accomplishments. She then suggested that people of color boycott this years ceremony.

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The Way I See It

I don’t think it’s fair to lay blame solely on the Academy. The fact that there has been a lack of diversity among the nominees for Oscars two years in a row is merely an symptom of a bigger problem.

When we’re looking at the breadth of work which actors should be recognized for their excellence in film, the majority of them are white. This is a numbers game, folks, and African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians, don’t have the numbers. Not in Hollywood.

Think of it this way. For Best Actor alone, there were 5 minorities on the long-list of possible nominees. Those were, Will Smith for Concussion, Géza Röhrig for Son of Saul, Michael B. Jordan for Creed, Samuel L. Jackson for The Hateful Eight, Abraham Attah for Beasts of No Nation and an argument for Idris Elba for Beasts of No Nation could be made as well. While that may seem like more than enough to chose from, there were another 30-35 white actors on the list. The odds are not in their favor.

Also, let us not forget that being nominated and winning awards is all about the campaign. How much money can the people behind you and your film throw at the people making the decisions? To say that the Academy Awards is based purely off merit, achievement and the sparkly, sweet sweat from an actors brow is a crock. If that were the case, Leo would have won a long time ago and Jennifer Lawerence would not have (no disrespect to JLaw but, seriously?!).

While giving his two cents on the lack of diversity, George Clooney said via Variety, “If you think back 10 years ago, the Academy was doing a better job. Think about how many more African Americans were nominated. I would also make the argument, I don’t think it’s a problem of who you’re picking as much as it is: How many options are available to minorities in film, particularly in quality films?”

Say what you want about George Clooney, but he gets it and he’s right. And while Jada’s heart is in the right place, it’s easy to argue that girlfriend’s just mad because her husband was snubbed.

In the end, if you want to talk about diversity at the Oscars, then you need to have a conversation first about diversity in film and what caliber of roles are available to minorities. Unfortunately, all the Tyler Perry films in the world aren’t going to help the lack of diversity at the Oscars.

Oh, the times, they are a changin’…

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