Op-Eds Opinion

Representation Matters as Oscars Controversy Continues

cropped-logo1.jpgKathleen Morris
Staff Writer

It is that time of year again: award season. It is the chance that comes around each year for people in the entertainment industry to receive recognition for their hard work. But one particular award show is standing out more than the others, and not for a good reason.

The Oscars has been called out for not having enough diversity amongst its Academy Awards nominees this year. This comes as a surprise seeing as there were many notable films featuring people of color, such as Concussion, Straight Outta Compton, Creed, and Beasts of No Nation. It has not gone without notice that this is the second year in a row that the nominees for the Oscars have been primarily white. The lack of diversity in last year’s nominees even prompted the creation of the tweet #OscarsSoWhite. With this situation resurfacing this year, the hashtag has been brought back with users of social media sharing their thoughts about the issue.

Many celebrities have also spoken out about the Academy turning a blind eye to actors and actresses of color. Celebrities like David Oyelowo, George Clooney and Lupita Nyong’o have taken to social media to express their concerns. Nyong’o posted a lengthy caption on Instagram to express her disappointment, saying that the nominations for this year caused her to think of “unconscious prejudice and what merits prestige in our culture.” Some celebrities such as Will and Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee have even gone as far as to decide to boycott this year’s Oscars.

Celebrities are not the only ones who feel disparaged about this year’s nominations. President Barack Obama is quoted as saying that, “The Oscar debate is really just an expression of this broader issue. Are we making sure that everybody is getting a fair shot?” This question is a really important one that needs to be asked. Is everyone truly being given an equal opportunity? According to figures published on The Times website from 2012, 94 percent of the Academy voters are white. Males make up 77 percent of the Academy. Only two percent of the voters are black, and Latinos make up less than two percent. If those figures are anything to go by, then there is no real opportunity for actors of color to be given a fair shot when it comes to being nominated for an Oscar.

Lack of diversity amongst those in the Academy has a trickle down effect, leading to the issue at hand. This issue however, is bigger than people getting shiny trophies to take home. It is a matter of representation. Movies are a big part of American culture, and being as such, they should reflect America as it is: a melting pot that is full of diversity and varying cultures. When people sit down in their living rooms to watch the Oscars, they should be able to see people like themselves walking across the stage to receive recognition for their work. Representation matters a lot.

Hillary Clinton, when speaking about the Oscars’ lack of diversity, summed it up like this: “Just think of the great films that not only display the diversity of America, but the diversity of the human experience…the Academy has to catch up with our reality.”

It seems that the Academy plans to do just that. With all of the criticism that this year’s nominations have brought, the Academy recently voted unanimously to make some needed changes. These changes are aimed at making the group more diverse. In a statement issued by the Academy they’ve said that their goal is to increase “the number of women and diverse members of the Academy by 2020.” The effort at creating more diversity could have great effects on the film industry as a whole. More films featuring people of color being nominated could mean more people of color winning Oscars. This could have a wonderful effect on Hollywood, influencing it to put out more diverse films. This is so crucial because representation really does matter.

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