The Academy Awards Officially Respond to #OscarsSoWhite
After the second year in a row in which every single one of the Oscar-nominated actors were white, and after Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith publicly called for a boycott of the Academy Awards, the Academy has issued its response. In short: they are very sorry, and they are going to try to do something about it.
Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs released the statement last night via The Academy’s Twitter account:
A statement from Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs pic.twitter.com/Nqhgc7sbqG
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) January 19, 2016
Isaacs’ insistence that the Academy will “conduct a review of our membership recruitment” is promising, but as she herself points out, they already tried that and it seemed to have little impact on the diversity of the Oscar nominations, which once again singled out films that were not only dominated by white faces, but were also largely about white cultural experiences. Even those films that weren’t specifically about white people only received nominations for their white contributors: the writers of Straight Outta Compton, and Sylvester Stallone in Creed.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is still predominantly white, male and relatively old. Once you are an Academy member, you are an Academy member for life, which may be skewing the demographic of Oscar voters in certain directions. When you consider that if you want to get an Academy Award for your film, your target demographic is “old white men,” you might start to see where the problem lies.
Adding more members from diverse background may help broaden the Academy’s perspective on cinema, but the number of members the awards body would have to add to make a statistically significant change is probably too large to be feasible, at least all at once.
Has the time come to reconsider the “lifetime membership” rules, and allow for more turnaround amongst the voters, focusing more on individuals actively producing films? That’s a question for the Academy to consider, but when you think about how many lifetime members would be vocally ticked off about being kicked out – for any reason – then that, too, may be impractical.
The Academy probably has a very slow journey ahead of it, but as long as it stays the course – and as long as its members actively strive to consider the artistic needs of a rapidly changing culture – there will be hope.
Photo: Jeffrey Mayer / WireImage
William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and watch him on the weekly YouTube series Most Craved and What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.