By Michael Parnell
The 2016 Academy Awards nominees were announced on Jan. 14 and for the second year in a row there were no actors of color nominated. That is 20 nominations and not one for an actor or actress that was not white.
The same thing happened last year, sparking the Twitter hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. It has returned.
Why does this happen? The Los Angeles Times wrote an article in 2012 on who are the voting members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. This is a quote from the article:
A Los Angeles Times study found that academy voters are markedly less diverse than the moviegoing public, and even more monolithic than many in the film industry may suspect. Oscar voters are nearly 94% Caucasian and 77% male, The Times found. Blacks are about 2% of the academy, and Latinos are less than 2%. Oscar voters have a median age of 62, the study showed. People younger than 50 constitute just 14% of the membership.
What that means is that the Academy is just a bunch of old white men who are not really in touch with what is taking place in movies and what is going on with the movie-going public.
Add to this that membership in the Academy is for life and that hundreds of Academy voters have not worked in film in decades.
This means that the people that do the nominating are people that have no real idea what is going on in the business and most of their experience in the present are the DVDs they receive as screeners from the studios in hopes of getting nominations for their films.
What is happening is that great roles performed by non-white actors are getting left out of the nominations. Great performances like Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation, Oscar Isaac in Ex Machina and Benicio Del Toro for Sicario are not nominated.
What must the Academy do? The Academy proclaims that they want to make themselves more diverse. But they have yet to come up with a process to do that.
Let me see if I can offer some insights. First, purge the rolls of the Academy. If a person has not worked in film for over five years, that person should not be able to nominate or vote. This means that there will be no more lifetime right to be an Academy member. If the Academy wants to be current then it must work with a membership that is currently involved in film.
Second, change the process of membership for the Academy. As it stands, if you are an actor, you must have three credited roles in three films. Then the person wishing to join has to be approved by the Board of Governors. Directors, producers and writers only need two screen credits, but they must follow the same procedure.
Instead of having people apply for membership, the Academy needs to seek out those who will make its numbers more diverse. A good example is Michael B. Jordan, who starred this year in Creed. Invite him to join. Seeking out diversity is the first step towards diversity.
Here is a huge irony about the Academy: the president is Cheryl Boone Isaacs. She is African-American. When this issue came to a head , Isaacs stated, “The Academy has no power over Hollywood. We have nothing to do with the hiring.”
That may be true, but the Academy has power over its membership. It is the members who nominate, not Hollywood. If the Oscars are going to look more like America, the Academy is going to have to take steps to make itself look more like the country.