By now, the situation regarding the lack of diversity in the 2016 Academy Award nominations is no secret. The main individual categories, including Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Supporting Actor, have only white nominees. As well as this, the films nominated for Best Picture all have a predominantly white cast.
An array of celebrities have voiced their opinions on this issue, ranging from Will and Jada Smith’s decision to boycott the awards altogether, to Stacey Dash’s perspective that the only way to gain true equality is to abolish events such as Black History Month and awards for only black people, believing them to be a “double standard”.
Other commentators include Whoopi Goldberg, who suggested that the real issue doesn’t lie with the awards, but with the casting and viewership of the films nominated. While she did express her anger with the situation, she also stated that those in charge of nominating are not “too white”, but the films themselves are. This is not going to change until filmmakers believe the public wants to watch racially diverse films.
While this is the opinion of just one individual, it can be seen reflected in the fact that the top seventeen highest grossing films in 2015 all featured a primarily white cast, while films with a larger black cast such as Straight Outta Compton only coming in at number eighteen, with the only Oscars category this film being recognised in being Writing (Original Screenplay). As well as this, Beasts of No Nation, a Netflix original film depicting a young boy forced to become a child soldier during a civil war in West Africa with a majority black cast, was in the running to bag at least one nomination, however received none. This may have been due to its slight flop on its opening weekend, only taking $51,000, however, other films released at the same time including Steve Jobs didn’t draw huge earnings yet still received two nominations; both for white actors.
While some may believe this to have been a coincidence, that maybe the black actors weren’t as talented, and that the Oscars can’t be racist because Chris Rock is hosting, this is not the first time this has occurred. The 2015 Academy Award nominations were just as unequal, and it can be seen throughout other industries including the music industry and the extremely non-diverse Billboard awards that sparked endless controversy.
The fact that these occurrences are not uncommon shows just how far society still has to go before full equality is reached and discrimination in the media comes to an end. The issue then becomes finding a long-term solution to change people’s attitudes and perceptions of minorities.
Is boycotting the awards an effective method of highlighting the issue? Or are television channels and award shows that only honour black people the right step to full and indiscriminative integration in the media?
Ultimately, the main obstacle is overcoming the negative perceptions of minorities in society and being able to give non-white people more equal opportunities so that issues with the lack of diversity in casting, and therefore lack of diversity at award shows, can be corrected.
This then poses the question of whether it is easy to change the status quo and for racial discrimination to be erased from such an industry, or whether such perceptions are so ingrained in the minds of the people in charge that it will be a fight that continues for many years to come.
As far as the Oscars are concerned, tune in (or decidedly don’t) on the 28th to find out how Chris Rock’s opening monologue will address the issue and maybe shedsome light on the repercussions of such an event.