Since the nominations for the 2016 Academy Awards were announced a couple of things have happened. For one, the main nominations, for yet another year, were overwhelmingly white. As a result, the continuing cry by minority Hollywood stars for more diversity is in full force once again. Two stars have even gone far enough to call for a boycott of the awards ceremony.
Director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith have called for a boycott of the ceremony, despite having Chris Rock as host, due to the lack of diversity among the nominees. The boycott isn't just due to race, but a majority of the nominees outside of the gender specific categories are male. There is a call for action by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to not only include more actors, directors, and writers of color but for them to include more deserving women in various categories.
Check out Jada Pinkett Smith's address from a couple of days ago:
There is no question that there is a lack of diversity in the nominees. We have had minority actors and actresses win Oscars in the past, and they will continue to win in the future. However, what we need to ask ourselves is whether the past version of diversity given by the Academy is the path we want to continue down. Not just that, but we need to open our eyes to how the Academy is representing minorities when they are included.
Let's look at previous minority nominees and winners
Remember when Denzel Washington won an Oscar for Training Day? I know we all remember when Mo'Nique won for Precious, or when Halle Berry won for Monster's Ball. Octavia Spencer, Lupita Nyong'o, and Jennifer Hudson all won, too. That's just a handful of the winners of recent years.
You should. There is something almost all of these winners, and other winners, have in common. Almost all of them won an award for playing culturally stereotypical black roles: drug addicts, drunks, criminals, the struggling poor, slaves, maids, etc. There's no saying their performances weren't good or deserving of the award, but it's a bit strange that the times the awards are given to blacks it's almost exclusively for stuff like this.
Fellow nominees aren't really an exception when it comes to blatant stereotypes either. Denzel Washington was nominated for Flight where he played a drunken, drug addicted airline pilot. Gabourey Sidibe was nominated for Precious where she played a pregnant, welfare stricken teen who is a victim of sexual and mental abuse at the hands of a drug addicted mother. Terrance Howard was nominated for Hustle & Flow where he played a hustler pimp struggling to become a rapper. That's just naming a few examples within the acting categories.
What about awards for directing or music? There have been a total of three black directors nominated for Best Director. The movies in which they directed were Boyz 'n the Hood, Precious, and 12 Years a Slave and none of the three took home the Oscar. There have been more nominees and winners for Best Original Song, but the winners include films like Hustle & Flow, Shaft, and Selma. If you've noticed the pattern then we are still on the same page.
What about the case against women?
This doesn't just apply to race. There is also a significant lack of women outside of the gender specific Best Actress/Supporting Actress categories. To date there have been four females nominated for Best Director; Lina Wertmuller for Seven Beauties, Jane Campion for The Piano, Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation, and Kathryn Bigelow, who miraculously took home the Oscar in 2009 for The Hurt Locker. Potential female nominees who were snubbed for nominations in the directing category include Kimberly Peirce for Boys Don't Cry, Mary Harron for American Psycho, Patty Jenkins for Monster, Lisa Cholodenko for The Kids Are All Right, Debra Granik for Winter's Bone, Lynne Ramsay for We Need to Talk About Kevin, Angelina Jolie for Unbroken, and Ava DuVernay for Selma. Many of those films received actress nominations or wins, but direction was shafted like nothing else.
In addition to category snubs for women, you can notice a bias within the gender specific categories. Oscar snubs are usually given to women who portray strength or, in other words, being a bad ass. The most notable for this year's list is the lack of a nomination for Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road. Her character definitely scared a lot of men and obviously the Academy is no exception. Best Picture is no stranger to snubbing female-driven films, too. Gone Girl failed to receive a nomination as did Thelma & Louise, A League of Their Own, Dreamgirls, and many more.
I guess the Academy's answer to this problem is for us ladies to suck it up, this is a boy's club.
So where do we go from here?
In response to the call for the boycott, the Academy has vowed to include more diversity in future award years. This includes both nominees of the ceremony as well as the admittance of Academy members. As of 2012, voting members of the Academy are 94% Caucasian and 77% male. Academy members have a median age of 62 and under 14% of members are under the age of 50.
I'm not considered a minority by any means, other than being female, but even to me it seems that the version "diversity" previously given by the Academy isn't diversity at all. There have been plenty of non-biased opportunities for minorities, such as Pharrell's nomination for Despicable Me 2 or Quvenzhané Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild, but they didn't win. Even Will Smith gave an uplifting and heartfelt performance about picking yourself up when you're down in The Pursuit of Happyness and he lost, too. Snubs for this year include Michael B. Jordan for Creed, despite his white co-star receiving a nomination, Will Smith for Concussion, and Idris Elba for Beasts of No Nation. You could even go far enough to include 'See You Again' by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth failing to receive a nomination for Best Original Song, while some believed Straight Outta Compton deserved a Best Picture nomination.
This is the official response from Academy president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs:
It's a great dream for true equality and I, for one, hope it actually happens someday. However, it's not going to just happen. It's up to those in Hollywood and those of us who love film to continue to pressure the Academy and the studios. Before that happens, we need to wake up to the problems of stereotypes, bias, and gender inequality. They are real problems and randomly giving a black actor/actress a nomination every year or so, or giving a woman a nomination for anything other than Best Actress more than four times in 80+ years, is not the answer. The Academy is still severely gender biased and exclusive of minorities even when they include their version of diversity.