The first black president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences responded to widespread criticism over the lack of diversity among this year's slate of Oscar nominees, claiming that the Academy is taking steps to address it going forward.
"In the last two years, we've made greater strides than we ever have in the past toward becoming a more diverse and inclusive organization through admitting new members and more inclusive classes of members," Cheryl Boone Isaacs told the Associated Press in an interview on Friday. "And, personally, I would love to see, and look forward to [seeing], a greater cultural diversity among all our nominees in all of our categories."
The 2015 Oscar nominations were announced Thursday morning, and all 20 acting nominees were white – something that hasn't happened in nearly two decades.
Notable snubs included David Oyelowo, who portrayed Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, as well as the movie's director Ava DuVernay (who would have been the first black woman nominated for Best Director). The snubs sparked frustration and outrage over perceived racial bias in Oscar voting; 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.
Boone Isaacs pointed out that Selma did receive a Best Picture nomination: "What is important not to lose sight of is that Selma, which is a fantastic motion picture, was nominated for best picture this year, and the best picture category is voted on by the entire membership of around 7,000 people."
But arguments over diversity aren't explicitly about race, either. "This year's Oscars see five directors and 14 screenwriters nominated, all men. The last time that happened? The 1999 Oscars," writes the Atlantic's David Sims. "Selma's DuVernay would have been the first African-American woman nominated in the Best Director category. The Oscars have nominated only four women total in their 87 years."
Part of the problem has to do with diversity: A 2012 survey in the Los Angeles Times found that the Film Academy is 94% white and primarily male with a median age of 62.
On Friday, the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition released a statement to the Associated Press saying the recent Oscar nominations list "obviously reflects a lack of diversity in Oscar voters, as well as in films generally." It also stated: "It behooves Hollywood — as an economic imperative, if not a moral one — to begin more closely reflecting the changing face of America."
But with nearly 7,000 members and no requirement to retire, the AP notes, "diversity is going to take some time."