Why are the Oscars so White?

Courtesy of Screen Rant

The Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences will be celebrating their 88th annual Oscars ceremony this Sunday.  This year’s event has been deemed one of the worst years for diversity at the Oscars since 1998.

Since the announcements of this year’s nominations on Jan. 14, the Academy has received a lot of backlash for their inability to recognize blacks for their achievements in cinema.  

The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite has returned for a second year in a row, and many people are blaming the Academy for the lack of diversity at the award show. But is the Academy really at fault, or is it Hollywood in general that needs to be addressed?

The systematic development of Hollywood movies is really the genesis of the problem. The production companies that control majority of the writers, directors and producers who create these films should be held accountable.

Nigel King, former Florida A&M University student, agrees that the issue isn’t with the Academy but with Hollywood itself.  

“Indeed there is a lack of diversity in Hollywood, but the Academy awards are not the place to address it, and it will not improve opportunities for next year,” King said.  “The Academy awards are just a reflection of the opportunities in cinema and these actors should address Hollywood, not the Academy.”

Throughout the years African-Americans have showed their outrage in regards to the roles of previous black Oscar Winners. Majority of the winners share the same common ground of playing characters that depict the negative stereotypes of blacks.

The last African-American actor or actress to win an Oscar was Lupita Nyong'o in 2014.  Nyong'o won Best Supporting Actress for her role as a slave in Steve McQueen’s 12 “Years a Slave.”

Director of the film Steve McQueen is the only African-American in Oscar history to win Best Picture. He too agrees that the Academy is only part of the issue, but not “the root of the problem.” McQueen blames the decision of head Hollywood Studios and TV companies on what is and is not being made.

“If people feel that the top roles for people of color are too stereotypical, collaborate with directors of greater visions and tailor roles to both appeal to the masses as well as break barriers,” King said.

Many prominent African-Americans in the film industry are seeking to have the Oscars boycotted. Film director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett-Smith have both shared their outrage and support for the boycott.

Former FAMU theatre student Leon Evans agrees with the notion to have the event boycotted. Evans believes that boycotting will indeed make a statement but not solve the problem itself.

“I think that it's a bold move and that it comes from years of feeling left out or undermined by a specific group of people. Spike Lee stated that he felt the issue was much larger than the Academy and that the film industry as a whole has a problem. I can agree with that. Boycotting the Oscars definitely makes a statement, but at the same time doesn't solve the problem, Evans said.

Members of the Academy hand select each of the nominees and winners based on their area of expertise.  The members are comprised of prominent Hollywood directors, actors and writers who produce majority of Hollywood’s movies.

Based on a survey conducted by the LA Times, out of the nearly 6,000 members of the Academy, 94 percent of them are white, while 77 percent of them are male with an average age of 63 years.

In a recent press release, the President of the Academy Cheryl Boone Isaacs addressed the issue and spoke about the Academy’s new procedures in the voting process and membership criteria.

“The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up,” Isaacs said. “These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition.”

Isaacs became President of the Academy back in 2013. She is only the third female since 1927 to hold the position and the first African-American.

Comedian Chris Rock is set to host the 2016 Academy Awards, and the show will air Sunday Feb. 28 at 8:30 p.m. on ABC.