Motion Picture Academy diversifies race and gender membership
Film has a way of bringing people together — off screen and on. It is a medium that can be used to portray the plight, humor, and triumphs of people across all walks of life, on a wide scale. Every year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences — comprised of accomplished members of the film industry — selects the best films of the year for special recognition. We know these awards colloquially as “The Oscars.”
Despite all the talent and breadth of content produced by the world’s filmmakers annually, many complained of disparities in terms of recognition. In the acting category alone, all 20 nominees from 2014 were caucasian — even David Oyelowo’s brilliant portrayal of Martin Luther King Jr. in “Selma” was omitted. Astute viewers immediately noticed this, causing #oscarssowhite to go viral.
This homogenous selection has led the academy to broaden its selection for membership, increasing its overall diversity.
Last Friday, the Academy announced the induction of 322 new members from various facets of the industry, genres, and cultural backgrounds. They include: Common, Kevin Hart, Emma Stone, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Dev Patel.
Inclusion in this community does not come easy; it is a highly selective process reserved for Oscar nominees, or those with sponsorship by their Hollywood contemporaries.
Cheryl Boone Isaacs — the current President of the Academy — had this to say about the recent selection:
“It’s really gratifying to see the big increases in genre, people of color, age and national origin… We’ve stressed very much that our members in each branch, it’s their duty to really pay attention to a diverse talent pool, to those coming up, to those that may have been overlooked for membership.”
While praise is definitely due to the Academy for addressing the concern, we should also commend the power of social media and its user for identifying on a mass scale. In decades past, everyday people may not have had this sort of power to elicit such a profound change.
Despite the progress, the film industry still has a long way to go in this area. For example, major studios such as Marvel Studios taken a slow — almost glacial — pace with regards to introducing culturally diverse characters to their roster. By and large, leading roles are still largely dominated by white, heteronormative characters — see: “Jurassic World” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”
However, with this development we can hold out hope the Academy will recognize more culturally diverse talent, and the success of a diverse franchise such as “The Fast and the Furious” shows audiences will respond well to heterogeneous ensembles.
What do you think of the Academy’s decision? Is it a step forward for the film industry? Comment below or tweet @connerws to give us your take!