The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences always receives some sort of criticism for their Oscar nominations. This year they came under fire for more than just snubbing a few fan favourites—they are being called out for the huge lack of diversity in their nominees.
Although it could be argued that the best movies this past year really were created by a single kind of person (white men) and that the nominees were fairly chosen, it is hard to accept this fact when some fantastically talented people were not properly recognized for their work.
For example, Gillian Flynn, the writer of the screenplay for Gone Girl, based on her novel of the same name, did not get nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. This film received wonderful reviews, with many praising its script, and yet both screenwriting categories do not include even one female nominee.
Another big snub came at the expense of the Martin Luther King biopic Selma, directed by Ava DuVernay, who could have been the first African-American woman ever nominated for the best director category. Instead, there is not one woman nominated. This is nothing new, since the category has always been dominated by men, never having more than one female nominee at any time in its history.
The complete absence of non-white actors is especially obvious this year, since actor David Oyelowo received such widespread critical acclaim for his portrayal of Martin Luther King in Selma. But again, this is just business as usual. A 2012 article in the Los Angeles Times pointed out that African-Americans have received less than 4 per cent of these acting awards in the past 83 years of the award show’s history.
Much of this lack of diversity can be chalked up to the fact that old white men dominate the Academy. According to the same Times report, the Academy is nearly 94 per cent white and 77 per cent male, with a median age of 62. The lack of diversity in voters reflects in the nominations, with this year seeing a depressing lack of female and non-white nominees.
These lopsided statistics are certainly discouraging to women and people of colour who have hopes of succeeding in the film business. The industry is already tough enough to break into, but it adds even more obstacles when you not only have to match up to your white male counterparts, but do significantly better in order to even get recognized.
The widespread criticism that the Oscars have received this year should be a wake-up call for Hollywood. Going forward, they need to encourage more diversity in both the film industry and in the Academy itself.