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#Oscarssowhite: The issue of Diversity within the Academy Awards

#Oscarssowhite: The issue of Diversity within the Academy Awards

Antony Mason discusses the lack of diversity and controversy surrounding the 88th Academy Awards.

With the new year comes the glitz and glamour of the award season. And once again, Leonardo DiCaprio is heavily tipped to win the award that has eluded him four times so far. Yet it is not DiCaprio’s potential for success that has been the topic of conversation for this year’s Academy Awards, but the lack of diversity in the nominations. All of the 20 nominations in acting categories have gone to white actors, leading to calls by prominent black figures in the industry, such as Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee to name just two, to boycott the awards over the lack of diversity.

This shortage of non-white figures isn’t limited to those who are nominated; it runs though the Academy. Of the 6,028 members of the Academy tasked with deciding the lucky few to be tipped for awards, an astounding 94% are white. The lack of diversity within the academy isn’t limited to race either, with roughly three quarters of the members being male and the average age being 63. This abundance of white males within the academy has led to many in the industry calling for changes to be made, and there will be, with the Academy’s president Cheryl Boone Isaacs pledging to double the amount of both ethnic minority and female members of the academy by 2020.

My view is that though there is a blatant lack of diversity amongst the members of the Academy, which is something that needs to be resolved, the lack of awards for minority actors ultimately comes down to the scarcity of roles provided to them. Hollywood, and all production companies for this situation, needs to change the way it sees actors of a minority and how they are portrayed on the screen. Biographies and historical portrayals aside, it seems trivial that a black actor couldn’t represent a character as well as a white actor.

A recent example of this issue would be who would replace Daniel Craig as James Bond. Many names were suggested, one of them being Idris Elba. One critic to this suggestion, writer Anthony Horowitz stated: “For me, Idris Elba is a bit too rough to play the part. It’s not a color issue. I think he is probably a bit too ‘street’ for Bond. Is it a question of being suave? Yeah.” For me, this isn’t an issue. One mark of a great actor is versatility, something I believe Elba has. If he is able to adapt for roles, why shouldn’t he be able to portray Bond?

Ultimately the Academy and Hollywood is in dire need of a reshuffle. This issue of diversity isn’t just limited to minority actors, but also towards women within the industry as well. It was only recently in 2010 that won the Academy Award for Directing, the first woman to do so in the Awards’ 87 years of existence. Thankfully this topic and all the commentary surrounding it are leading to changes within the Academy that need to be made. The hope is now that Hollywood can follow suit.

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