ByJack Mitchell, writer at Creators.co
I'm a student at the University of Sussex, studying Drama and Film. I'm a huge cinephile, watching and discussing a wide variety of cinema
Jack Mitchell

It's no secret that Hollywood has had issues with the representation of marginalized groups through the years. Before 2016, we'd gone two years where every acting nominee was white. Other issues include the significant male dominance in non-gendered categories, such as the Best Director category. In fact, Kathryn Bigelow is the only woman to have won the award.

All of these issues saw mounting tension with the trending hashtag, . This controversy saw a significant improvement at the 2016 Oscars, where 7 of the 20 acting nominees were from minority groups, and 4 of the 9 Best Picture nominees focused on marginalized figures. Following these victories for representation, Oscar frontrunner La La Land was beaten in the race for Best Picture by Moonlight, a relatively low-budget film about a gay African American.

While this seemed to quell anger towards the Academy (despite a controversial Best Picture announcement), the prestigious organization has gone a step further in fulfilling their promise of greater diversity. This year they have invited a record 744 new members, up from last year's 683. This new class, if all elected choose to accept their invitations, is by far the most diverse yet, as shown by these key statistics:

  • 39% women, previously 25%
  • 30% people of colour, up from 8%

Among these new invitees are some of Hollywood's most beloved actors. The new class will see the likes of Dwayne Johnson, Donald Glover, Jordan Peele, Oscar nominee Ruth Negga and 2017's biggest star of the year, Gal Gadot.

Gal Gadot (Credit: Warner Bros.)
Gal Gadot (Credit: Warner Bros.)

Since the release of Wonder Woman, Gadot has been touted as a feminist icon. DC's cinematic universe had previously taken critical bashings but their latest effort has been widely praised. The female-directed, female-led venture has been a hit both financially and critically for the company, and will hopefully inspire producers to create more female-led films in the future.

Along with Gadot, these megastars have rightfully earned their places alongside the other Academy members, and will be a welcome addition to the organization. In fact, their inclusion could help aid the cause.

Can This Finally End The Controversy?

This debate caused several celebrities to be openly critical of the Academy in recent years. For example, Jada Pinkett Smith and her husband, Will Smith, felt strongly enough to boycott the event. Jada released a poignant video on her Facebook page, in which she made a compelling case for her decision.

"Is it time that people of color recognize how much power, influence, that we have amassed, that we no longer need to ask to be invited anywhere?"

Pinkett Smith's boycott seemed to serve as the catalyst for other celebrities to be vocal about a need for change. A wave of celebrities condemned the prestigious event for its lack of diversity, including director Spike Lee, who slammed the Academy on Instragram.

"How Is It Possible For The 2nd Consecutive Year All 20 Contenders Under The Actor Category Are White?"

Eventual 2016 nominee Lupita Nyong'o also took to Instagram to have her say on the lack of diversity, claiming to be "disappointed by the lack of inclusion", and renowned rapper Snoop Dogg released an Instagram video taking his own swipe.

"F*ck the Oscars, f*ck all that old slavery bullsh*t ass awards show"

These quotes don't even scrape the surface of how far spread the outrage was following the 2015 Oscars. However, the new Academy line-up, preceded by the diverse 2016 acting nominees, seem to show a significant change within the Academy.

However, there is still a long way to go, and there's evidence to suggest that the Oscars controversy is representative of the film industry as a whole. As recently as 2016, the statistics were as follows:

  • Women represent half of the American population, but get just a third of speaking roles
  • 28.3% of characters with dialogue were from non-white racial/ethnic groups, yet comprise 40% of the population

While the Academy is undoubtedly making an effort to use criticism constructively, the issue is something systemic, and is not unique to one organization. If non-white actors and female actors aren't receiving the representation they deserve, then it's hard to equally represent these actors in awards season. Of course, no nominees in two years is an eye-opening statistic, but the Academy shouldn't be the sole recipient of criticism if the industry is going to progress as a whole. That being said, the incredible success of Moonlight and the Academy's new members are hopefully a sign of further progression within the film industry - which is surely something to celebrate.

Do you think the Oscars are successfully adapting to the controversy? Let us know in the comments.

Source: The Guardian

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