It seems as though we cannot make it through a night purely celebrating entertainment without complaining about the recipients, presenters, and voters of the 87th Oscars, which aired on February 22.
The 2015 Academy Awards Ceremony has achieved the stigma of being one of the least racially diverse lineups in the history of the prestigious award. With the trending Twitter hashtag #OscarsSoWhite and thousands of articles condemning gender and racial inequality, blame for this lack of minority representation has fallen onto the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences itself. As of 2012, the Academy was 94% caucasian, 77% male, and with 86% of its members over the age of 50, as reported by the LA Times. However, the Academy is not at fault for the racial imbalance in the nominees and winners of the most recent Oscars; it is movie makers and viewers themselves to blame.
The Academy decides the winners of the awards in the most professional manner. Members of the film world nominate their peers to the Academy based on outstanding expertise and experience in their field (which explains why the average age of the Academy is 63 years old). The members vote for their top film picks in the areas of their specialty- i.e. costume designers vote for best costume, directors vote for best director. The voters are professionals with deep and extensive knowledge of award-worthy components for film. When they vote, these movie-making professionals vote purely with the intention of selecting the best film in a particular category. Regardless of the actors’, directors’, or writers’ ethnicity and gender the Academy inarguably nominates the most meaningful and culturally important movies of the year, year after year.
The Academy votes based on quality, and the members should not alter their voting to fulfill a social requirement of being racially diverse or equal. In years to come, the Academy should not sacrifice their professional quality standards for what makes an award winning movie. They should not select movies purely to check off a box for having a black movie, an asian movie, a latin nominee, a caucasian nominee, etc.. The Academy must uphold its credibility for selecting the best movies by voting for the Oscars purely based on quality.
That said, I am not blind to the grossly shocking statistics of the blacks’ history in the Oscars. Out 2,947 of the Oscars awarded, there have only been 31 black winners. Furthermore, most of these wins have been when blacks have been fulfilling stereotypical black characters, such as those of maids, gangsters, and working class characters. This is not OK by any standard that such a large portion of American society is denied recognition at a truly culturally unifying event. The lack of racial diversity at the Oscars is certainly a problem, but it is not a problem that the Academy should receive the blame for.
The solution for this comes from filmmakers, writers, and directors because the first step to racially diverse Academy Awards is having racially diverse- and racially equal- movies. Even more it comes down to the everyday movie go-er. Hollywood makes movies that make money, and if the people want to watch movies with a variety of genders and ethnicities those are the movies the people will get.
(Olivia Gieger ’17, Arts Editor)