Remember when, last year, white actors earned all 20 of the Oscar nominations in both leading and supporting categories, and we all said “Yo academy, this is ludicrously shitty and white-washed, even for you”? Before long, the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite was trending on Twitter — a means of calling out the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences even if it couldn’t undo their damage. Well, voters will submit their nomination ballots this week, and they’re very concerned about a hashtag encore.
According to the Los Angeles Times, “the biggest issue for many voters isn’t about who might be nominated but about the diversity of this year’s acting class.” The nominees’ overwhelming whiteness “came to define the Academy Awards so much that host Neil Patrick Harris opened the ceremony by quipping: ‘Tonight we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest. Sorry, brightest.’”
It makes sense that the academy does not want to be branded as yet another bastion of institutionalized racism, and if this year’s crop of nominees is similarly monochrome the outcry will and should be thunderous.
University of Southern California history professor Steve Ross tells the Los Angeles Times, “If it’s all-white again, nobody’s going to be happy and there might be a growing perception that the academy is out of touch.”
One voter who wished to remain anonymous agrees with Ross: “I don’t see how you can nominate another group that doesn’t include any actor of color and think you’ll be taken seriously.”
But will we actually see greater diversity on the 2016 Oscar ballot? The Los Angeles Times suggests that it’s not likely, though there may some movement before the Friday deadline:
“ In the four acting categories, only Idris Elba (“Beasts of No Nation”) sits among the forecasted nominees at Gold Derby, a website compiling the predictions of two dozen Oscar pundits.
That could change by the time nomination balloting closes Friday, with some close observers saying that the prospect of another #OscarsSoWhite controversy could even influence the voting.”
Last year “Selma” filmmaker Ava DuVernay became a critical voice in the #OscarsSoWhite protests after her film received only two nominations. However, she emphasizes to the Los Angeles Times that, ultimately, this issue of representation extends far beyond an awards ceremony:
“The OscarsSoWhite hashtag is what people want to hear about. But it’s a privileged point of view to think that everyone’s end goal is to be in that fancy room. This work needs to be done so people of color can seem themselves as real people on the screen. That’s an issue of survival, essential to our personhood and our humanity and our dignity. It has nothing to do with those hashtags.”
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