Last updateThu, 18 Jan 2018 3am


The 2016 Oscars Cause Controversy

The Oscars 2016What’s with the lack of diversity amongst the 2016 Oscar Nominees? This has been a question that many people have been asking since the list of the 2016 Oscar nominees was announced two weeks ago. All 20 nominations in the Best Acting categories went to white actors or actresses. The recent news has some black actors like Will Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith boycotting the ceremony because of the lack of diversity. Others like director Spike Lee have also refused to go to the ceremony due to the way the Academy has voted. I’m sure this will also put Chris Rock, who is the host of this year’s Oscars in an awkward situation, but he is a comedian, so he will laugh it off and most likely make a joke out of this controversial debate.

I do understand why the Oscars is such a big deal for artists in Hollywood. It is the crowning achievement an actor, director or screen writer can get. This stamp of recognition that once you are at least nominated, you’ve made it amongst the elite in show business. You will be mentioned in the likes of all the great actors, directors etc. past and present. It seems like a validation, but when you look at the history of the Oscars, the odds have not been in favor of people of color. For all the white actors that have won Oscars, only a small margin of people of color have won the award: Hattie McDaniel, Sidney Poitier, Rita Moreno, Louis Gossett Jr., Denzel Washington, and Morgan Freeman to name a few. Halle Berry was the first black actress to win Best Actress in 2002.

For an awards show that has been in vogue since 1929, it is questionable and a bit ridiculous that it took until the new millennium to give a black actress an Oscar. I feel like black artists have become the most outspoken because racial issues in this country have always been between black vs. white, but I have yet to see Asian actors or Indian actors win either. I think it is a diversity issue that the members of the Academy have not addressed in full.

Will Smith OscarsI read a statistic recently that said 94 percent of Oscar voters are white, 76 percent are male, and an average of 63 years old. Those numbers don’t scream diversity to me. I know this may be a silly analogy, but if you ask a group of older Jewish white men to pick their favorite dishes in a submission contest of Knishes, Matzo ball soup, Baklava, Spaghetti, Gumbo, Fried chicken, Rice and Beans, or Lo Mein. Most likely those Jewish guys are going to pick those Knishes, Matzo ball soup and Baklava dishes that resonate with them the most. I think it is similar to the way the Academy members vote.


They vote for movies that resonate with them the most. I loved Straight Outta Compton but most likely a movie like that is not going to resonate with an audience of white, male 63 year olds. A lot of it is subjective.

Entertainment is mostly dominated by white men as well. Most of them are the studio execs, the distributors and the financers of films. There is still a gamble to see a person of color starring in a movie.

I do think that the lack of financing and marketing does affect the way any movie is received. This could affect what gets submitted for Oscars and what doesn’t. It is about politics too, campaigning for a nomination does happen.

Recently I saw Beasts of No Nation with Idris Elba and was horrified by the movie’s subject matter, but I believe it was deserving of Oscar nominations. I’m disappointed to see that was left out, but again this whole voting selection is subjective. Hopefully things will change.

The real world is racially and culturally diverse. Hollywood should reflect that. It is nice to see roles go to non-white actors because it doesn’t happen that often in the mainstream. The newest Star Wars movie cast British, Nigerian actor John Boyega, and he was one of the best things about that movie.

More strides do need to be made in the industry. Here’s to hoping that the Oscars will be more diverse in the years to come.


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