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#OscarSoWhite Draws Attention to Hollywood’s Lack of Diversity

Christine Culko, Features Editor

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Among the glitz and glamor that surrounds the Oscars, one notable thing will be missing when celebrities hit the red carpet on February 28 for the 88th annual Academy Awards: diversity.

For the second year in a row, out of the 20 people nominated for the four acting categories, not one is a person of color.  One could argue that the actors and actresses nominated were the best options, but this “whitewashing” is not okay.

Hollywood’s Lack of Diversity

The lack of diversity goes beyond the acting categories: out of the five films nominated for Best Director, only one was directed by a person of color, Alejandro González Iñárritu who directed “The Revenant”, and none of the films were directed by women.

Some may conclude that this lack of diversity comes from the institutional bias toward minorities and women in the Hollywood movie business.

For this year’s Oscars, there were 305 movies eligible for nomination.  If these movies reflected the population of the United States, over 150 films should have been directed by women, 50 by Hispanics, 45 by African Americans, and many more directed by Asian Americans, LGBT individuals, and other minorities.

However, these facts continuously prove to be false both in acting and directing roles.  Many movies that were either directed by a person of color or had one in a lead role appear to have been overlooked in the nomination process.

Creed” was written and directed by Ryan Coogler and starred actor Michael B. Jordan, however the only nomination the film got was for best actor in a supporting role, Sylvester Stallone.  The film “Straight Outta Compton” also was directed by an African American, F. Gary Gary, and had a cast of mostly African American actors and actresses, but the film’s only nomination was for its screenplay – and its writers were white.

Boycotting the Oscars and Drawing Attention

In response to the lack of diversity, some have decided to boycott the Oscars, including Will Smith, his wife Jada Pinkett Smith, and director Spike Lee.

However, one notable person has decided to not boycott the Oscars, host Chris Rock.  While Rock has spoken out many times about the issue of diversity in Hollywood, he is not giving up his position as host.

But is boycotting going to change anything?  The answer is complicated.  While boycotting such a famous event certainly makes a statement, it’s not going to change the nominations.  The hope of boycotting the Oscars is draw attention to the lack of diversity.

Furthermore, it has gained attention across and even outside of Hollywood. Many famous people have spoken out about the issue, including actor George Clooney, actress Lupita Nyong’o, and even President Obama.  However, it was actress Viola Davis who summed up the issue with one quote.

“The problem is with the Hollywood movie-making system,” Davis said in an interview with Entertainment Tonight.  “How many black films are being produced every year? How are they being distributed? The films that are being made, are the big-time producers thinking outside of the box in terms of how to cast the role?  You can change the Academy, but if there are no black films being produced, what is there to vote for?”

Fixing the Problem

In response to the backlash, Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs released a statement addressing the controversy and explaining the steps that the Academy plans to take in order to fix the issue.

“While we celebrate [the nominees] extraordinary achievements, I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion,” Isaacs said in the statement.  “The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership.  In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond.”

However, the heart of the problem does not necessarily lie in the Academy, but in Hollywood movie studios.  But the question could arise, does the color of one’s skin determine the roles that actors can play?

The answer: it shouldn’t matter, but the skin color still continues to be a determining factor in Hollywood casting.

“Often times before a person even walks into an audition, the casting director already has an idea of who they are looking for to play the role,” senior Neha Ogale said.  “A lot of the time, those qualities are out a person’s control.  Worse, sometimes the casting directors may already know who they want for a part and only hold auditions as a means of following protocol.”

This so called “precasting” can hurt people of color when they are auditioning for roles in movies and on stage.  The director could already know who they want to cast in a part, which can limit the number of roles that are given to people of color.

There is no easy way to fix this problem – however, the best place to start is in the movie studios.  If movie studios become more open to diversity, we will begin to see a change in nominations for awards, like the Oscars.

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#OscarSoWhite Draws Attention to Hollywood’s Lack of Diversity