Remember the 2016 Oscars? If not, then this hashtag might refresh your memory: #OscarsSoWhite. It was the second year in a row in which the nominees were mostly straight, white people. More notably, not a single person of color was nominated in the four acting categories. This decision didn’t go unnoticed by fellow actors or the general public, which prompted boycotts along with the popular hashtag. Spike Lee or Jada Pinkett Smith amongst others decided to skip the ceremony and openly explain their decision on social media.
The 2017 Oscars ceremony, so far, promises a change. Nominees for this year’s awards were recently announced with notable diversity. A black actor is nominated in the top categories, which include Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress. This is history-making for the Academy, as it has never happened before.
The 2017 Nominees
Denzel Washington’s film Fences earned him a Best Actor nomination, and his co-star Viola Davis a Best Supporting Actress one. Mahershala Ali was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Moonlight, which itself scored multiple selections. Ali was optimistic about this as more than just a fluke year, telling ET that he hoped it was “a start to something that becomes really normal.”
Ali also elaborated, “I would love to see people of color continue to get opportunities and have opportunities to do projects that are action blockbusters, as well as being a part of art house or indie projects, that in some way find themselves around and in the conversation every awards season,” he said. “We want to exist in all platforms and we want to see diversity and see people being included on every level. I hope that this is a real beginning for that.”
In addition to Davis, there were two other women nominated in the Supporting Actress category. Naomie Harris in Moonlight and Octavia Spencer in Hidden Figures accompany Davis and make this the first time that multiple black nominees were in the field in one year. The last time that happened was in 1985.
Academy So White
Although this year is notably more diverse, the Film Academy organization is an overwhelmingly homogenous group. According to the Los Angeles Times, in 2012 the 5,765-person roster was predominantly white (94 percent) men (77 percent) who had an average age of 62. With that showing, no wonder it’s hard been for people of color, women, and members of the LGBTQ community to get a “seat at the table.” To become a voting member of the Academy requires a personal recommendation, meaning that you’ve got to know someone to get it. Until this old boys club changes, we’ll have to hold our breath every year that the non-white non-straight people get the recognition they deserve.