This year's Oscar nominations are a big, white disgrace.
No woman was nominated in the Best Director category and zero people of color received nominations in acting categories, despite no shortage of talent. Selma, a widely acclaimed film about the civil rights era, was particularly hailed as Oscar-worthy, but its director, Ava DuVernay, and actors such as David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo were excluded from any nominations.
As David Sims at the Atlantic points out, the overwhelming lack of diversity has made this the whitest Oscars in 19 years. The last time the award show was this white, Mel Gibson was best known for Braveheart (not his drunken anti-Semitic rants) and Gwyneth Paltrow was known for her acting (not inventing words like "uncoupling" and insane recipe books).
Apparently it's one step forward, two steps back in an industry where 94% of the people making the decisions are white. Dumbfounded by the overt snubbing of people of color in this year's nominations, attorney and blogger April Reign took it upon herself to start a conversation using humor and the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. In a matter of minutes, it spread like wildfire.
#OscarsSoWhite they asked to touch my hair. ????— April (@ReignOfApril) January 15, 2015
"I started the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag to bring attention to the fact that, once again, there is a lack of diversity and representation of people of color in the Oscar nominations," Reign told Mic. "Both in front of the camera and behind, people of color are not being recognized by the academy for their outstanding achievements in film. There also seems to be a disconnect; how can an important movie like Selma be nominated for Best Picture, but none of the major facets of the film (director, actor, actress, screenplay, etc.) receive a nomination?"
Reign hopes the hashtag "brings awareness to the lack of diversity in film and makes both the viewing public and, importantly, studio executives and Oscar voters, take note of the fact that, in 2015, this should not even be a discussion."
#OscarsSoWhite, they don't see color.— Imani ABL (@AngryBlackLady) January 15, 2015
#OscarsSoWhite they said "I'm not racist but..." before they announced the nominees— Paige Hendrickson (@paige_henn) January 15, 2015
#OscarsSoWhite they think ketchup is spicy.— Alex Ngo (???) (@alexrichardngo) January 15, 2015
#OscarsSoWhite they wear "I CAN Breathe" t-shirts.— BGD (@BlackGirlDanger) January 15, 2015
#OscarsSoWhite They didn't see Selma but their housekeeper said it was really good.— Fed-Up AMPAS Member. (@thewayoftheid) January 15, 2015
#OscarsSoWhite they have that one really good black friend.— Adam Mordecai (@advodude) January 15, 2015
#OscarsSoWhite that, if they made a movie about it to ease their guilt, it would STILL star & be directed/produced by white people— lancegould (@lancegould) January 15, 2015
Other users used the #OscarNom hashtag to highlight their disappointment with this year's nominations. Most poignant were tweets pointing out the pervasive stereotypes that plague the industry's roster of roles offered to black women.
#OscarsSoWhite that the statue counts as a Person Of Color.— Hari Kondabolu (@harikondabolu) January 15, 2015
#OscarsSoWhite it calls Viola Davis "Shonda" by mistake on the red carpet.— DigitalBridget (@BridgetMarie) January 15, 2015
First time since I think 2005 that none of the nominated films for Best Picture are centrally about a woman #OscarNoms— Imran Siddiquee (@imransiddiquee) January 15, 2015
The Oscars can solve its diversity problem with one simple solution: Change who gets to vote. It's unconscionable that the most-watched and most prestigious awards show has judges that are 77% male and 92% white. It does not represent the entertainment industry, nor does it represent moviegoers, 46% of whom are people of color and a majority of whom are female.
If the Oscars want to stay relevant to a young audience, which is the most diverse generation in history and which increasingly isn't tuning in to award shows (or anything on a television, for that matter), they need to examine the implicit bias in their selection process. If the academy doesn't solve its problem, the Oscars won't just lose credibility, it will lose millennials too.