Op-Eds Opinion

Breaking the Norm: The Academy Awards increase of diversity

By Kathleen Morris
Staff Writer

It’s been four years since the #OscarsSoWhite controversy arose, where both viewers and film industry elites disparaged the Academy’s lack of diversity. Between the films being nominated and the people chosen to vote for the winners, there was a serious lack of variety. Following that, the Academy set a goal of becoming more diverse.

The latest Oscars tested that promise, and though they have a ways to go, it seems like they’re at least making a sincere attempt.

Entertainment Weekly reported that over 774 people from 54 different countries were invited to join the Academy in 2017. That selection included many people of color, such as actors Terry Crews, Priyanka Chopra, and Aldis Hodge.

According to Vox, that number jumped to 928 in 2018, widening the chance for members of marginalized groups to join the ranks of the Academy. These numbers, when compared to the 322 invites issued in 2015, are a good sign of increased efforts to diversify the Academy.

It should be noted that in 2015, 322 was a record-breaking number, and that record has now been broken several times over. However, the amount of people of color in the Academy is currently just at 16 percent, while the amount of women hovers at 31 percent. These numbers are much better than those previously reported, but there’s no doubt that more work is left to be done.

Despite that, efforts on the part of the Academy have been paying off. For example, Rami Malek became the first Egyptian to ever win the award for “Best Actor” for his depiction of singer Freddie Mercury in the film Bohemian Rhapsody.

Last year, Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim to ever win an Oscar for acting with his role in Moonlight and did so again this year for his role in Green Book. Black Panther took home several awards, with one going to Springfield native Ruth Carter for “Best Costume Design.”

The Mexican film, Roma, received 10 nominations altogether, and director Alfonso Cuaron took home two awards for “Best Director” and “Best Cinematography.” Domee Shi, a Chinese storyboard artist and director, received the award for “Best Animated Short Film” for her Pixar Short Bao. And the film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, featuring a young Afro Latina named Miles Morales, who dons the mask of Spiderman, won the award for “Best Animated Feature.”

When one looks at the numbers and statistics, the future can seem glum. According to The Statistics Portal website, between 1928-2015, less than 10 percent of the winners for acting categories were people of color.
From 2006 to 2015, less than 15 percent of the awards for writing, cinematography, and directing went to women. By 2017, that number rose to 23 percent, but that’s still considerably low.

However, it’s important to not disregard the growth that has been happening, even though it’s been small. Change tends to take time, especially when one considers how long the Academy Awards have been stuck in its old ways.

This is why every win and every victory should be celebrated. Every time a film comes out that tells a story different from “the norm,” or every time people of color can see themselves reflected on the screen, that’s a win. We should all have high hopes that this trend of growth and diversity continues and hold the Academy to the standards they’ve begun to set.

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