The Oscars are known for being one of the most prestigious awards attributed to people in film. Directors and actors alike know they have “made” it in Hollywood when they are standing on stage, golden trophy in hand, giving their impassioned acceptance speeches. Actors like Denzel Washington and Daniel Day-Lewis have won more than once. And some actors—like poor Leonardo DiCaprio—are often nominated, but have yet to win.
But something was amiss with this year’s Oscar nominations. Not a single person of color was nominated for an Oscar in any of the major acting categories this year. Yep, you read that right. This is the first time the Oscar nominees in all the lead and supporting actor roles have included only white actors since 1998. Not to mention, we didn't see any love for female filmmakers or films with a female protagonist this year, either. It only took 81 years for a female to win best director. That was back in 2008 when Kathryn Bigelow won for The Hurt Locker.
This is especially strange since recent past winners have included black director Steve McQueen, Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron and Taiwanese director Ang Lee, who all took home Oscars. People took their outrage to Twitter, sparking the #OscarsSoWhite trend. So who decides on the nominees anyway?
The Academy is the mysterious body of people who act like an electoral college for films. According to The Los Angeles Times, voters are almost exclusively white males. They average 63 years of age: 76 percent are men and 94 percent are white. 94 percent. Only 77.7 percent of people in the US are white. Does that sound like fair representation to you?
In their defense, The Academy is making steps to diversify. The Academy’s first black president is a woman named Cheryl Boone Isaacs. The organization has started to recruit younger voters. It seems like the organization recognizes what changes need to be made. We just wish they wouldn’t have dropped the ball with this year’s nominations.
Films do very well when they embrace diverse characters. There are studies to prove it. It would make sense for The Academy to be more welcoming to films and filmmakers that showcase diversity. Continually giving such a prestigious, well-respected award to the white male protagonist is getting old and frankly, a bit boring. Hollywood can make anyone a hero. It’s about time we celebrate the films that do just that.