The Academy might not get the happy ending it’s seeking this year, so it’ll have to settle for controversy.
After a growing backlash against the lack of diversity in Hollywood,
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced changes in its membership and voting rules
The Academy said its goal is to double the number of minority members (currently at 7 percent) and women (currently at 24 percent) by 2020.
On Saturday, the Academy’s president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, and its chief executive, Dawn Hudson, discussed the changes at the Producers Guild Awards.
Isaacs said the Academy has been discussing changes for years, and Hudson said its board of governors has been “impatient” to make them.
“It was important for us to be heard,” Isaacs told USA Today.
“We know what we were doing and the discussions we were having internally. Speaking about this initiative of membership lets everyone know, not that we are
listening, but that we have listened.”
“We want to be closer to our movie-going population and our United States population,” Hudson said.
Oscars boycott and celebrity criticism
Comedian Chris Rock will still host the awards ceremony—despite calls for him to boycott the event—but he recently announced he is rewriting his opening
monologue to address the growing backlash over the lack of diversity in Oscar nominees.
The award’s producer, Reginald Hudlin, told
that viewers Rock will make jokes based on the trending #OscarsSoWhite hashtag:
You should expect [#OscarsSoWhite jokes]. And, yes, the Academy is ready for him to do that. They're excited about him doing that. They know that's what we
need. They know that's what the public wants, and we deliver what the people want.
Rock has already poked fun at the ceremony, calling it “The White BET Awards”:
“Saturday Night Live” also mocked the growing controversy with a sketch called “Screen Guild Awards,” and announced that the Best Actor Award would go to
“all the white guys” in a five-way tie:
Director Spike Lee—who previously announced that he and his wife would be at a Knicks basketball game instead of attending the event—commended the Academy
for “trying to do the right thing,” but told the Associated Press that it’s not enough to change his mind:
We have principles. I commend the Academy for what they've done. But that does not change our mind. The Knicks will be victorious—I hope. I'll be at the
Actor Will Smith and actress Jada Pinkett Smith joined Lee and announced that they will not attend the ceremony, either. The Rev. Al Sharpton urged a
boycott for both Oscars attendance and viewing.
Academy changes are a ‘first step’
Actress Mo’Nique—who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 2010—criticized Smith and Pinkett Smith, saying their de facto awards boycott was over a
trophy instead of demanding equal rights.
“They’ve already won,” Mo’Nique said
during a radio interview. “Will is one of the few multi-million-dollar actors that is of color. … About 10 years ago, the word was he was getting $20 million a film. If you’re
getting $20m a film, ya’ll already won. You’ve won generationally.”
So do we stand up over a gold-plated trophy or do we stand up and say we need equal wages and equal treatment? And are we standing up now ’cause it’s in
your backyard? The Oscars are no different to last year, the Oscars has not been different for what—the 89 years it’s been around?
Actor Matt Damon also recently addressed Hollywood’s diversity problem, saying it’s “a lot bigger than the Oscars”:
We’re talking about huge systemic injustices around race and gender that are a lot bigger than the Oscars. They’re massive issues in our industry and in our country.
Damon said the Academy’s changes were “a wonderful first step” but that more must be done. “That’s what it is,” Damon said. “A first step.”
RELATED: Keep your cool in a crisis with these 13 tips.
Other celebrities asserted that Hollywood’s diversity problem isn’t just about black actors and filmmakers.
On Friday, actress Julie Delpy told TheWrap reporter Jeff Sneider that women have a harder time pushing for greater diversity and
inclusion in Hollywood:
Two years ago, I said something about the Academy being very white male, which is the reality, and I was slashed to pieces by the media. It’s funny—women
can’t talk. I sometimes wish I were African-American because people don’t bash them afterward.
Delpy was criticized for her remarks and apologized the next day, telling Entertainment Weekly that she “can’t stand
inequality and injustice of any kind” and that women and minority actors should “support each other”:
I’m very sorry for how I expressed myself. It was never meant to diminish the injustice done to African-American artists or to any other people that
struggle for equal opportunities and rights; on the contrary. All I was trying to do is to address the issues of inequality of opportunity in the industry
for women as well (as I am a woman). I never intended to underestimate anyone else’s struggle! We should stay alert and united and support each other to
change this unfair reality and don’t let anyone sabotage our common efforts by distorting the truth.
Despite the continuing criticism, other celebrities are hopeful that the Academy’s changes—spurred by the controversy—will change the status quo:
Director Steve McQueen—the only black director to win an Oscar for Best Picture—said he hopes the Academy’s changes will be a “watershed” moment.
“I’m hoping in 12 months or so we can look back and say this was a watershed moment, and thank God we put that right,” McQueen said, according to The Guardian.
readers, what do you think of the backlash—and the Academy’s response?