As January 2016 draws to a close, entertainment fans and critics alike anticipate the upcoming season of awards ceremonies. Possibly the best-known annual entertainment awards ceremony, the Academy Awards (also known as the Oscars), will occur on February 28..
The 88th annual Academy Awards is already surrounded by controversy. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been called out on several fronts for under representation of women and minority individuals in voting membership, and recently announced that they are taking steps to increase the diversity in voters.
However, the Academy continues to face disapproval and even boycotts as individuals complain of the lack of diversity among Oscar nominees. Social outrage has kicked off with the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, initiated in 2015 with a tweet from frustrated minority individual April Reign. The movement has been picked up by notables such as Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee and criticized by others, including Michael Caine.
On campus, several individuals have addressed the Oscars diversity controversy. Senior Abby McCubbin has followed Oscars results for the past four years.
“There isn’t enough diversity in Hollywood,” McCubbin said. “The big people in Hollywood have a sure-fire way of making a hit using the same actors who have connections. These people are typically of a white skin color.”
Sophomore Warren Duncan, also a follower of the Oscars for several years, considers the conflicts raised between “color-blind casting” (casting based on abilities rather than ethnicity) and Hollywood’s drive for realistic portrayals.
“If the director of ‘Steve Jobs’ thought Will Smith was a better actor than Michael Fassbender, Will Smith would be cast as Steve Jobs,” Duncan said. “That is not realistic though. We all know Steve Jobs wasn’t an African American. The directors in Hollywood want to make their films as realistic as possible. It is upsetting that there are not that many opportunities for minority actors to be cast in roles because of the way films are made these days.”
Several celebrities have openly voiced their opinions on #OscarsSoWhite. Matt Damon, in a recent interview with the Associated Press, stated, “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 here seems to implicate Hollywood for lack of diversity.
Freshman Becky Ochoa shares similar views.
“The problem could be reflective of bigger issues,” Ochoa said. “I never really noticed it until some of the minority actors brought it up, but I suppose they do have a point.”
According to Sir Ian McKellen, openly gay since 1988, these “bigger issues” include under-representation of LGBT-identifying individuals and women as well as people of color, giving credence to the possible exclusivity of #OscarsSoWhite.
While McCubbin believes Hollywood strongly lacks diversity, she disagrees with the boycotts stemming from the controversy.
“Will [boycotts] work? No,” McCubbin said. “This change is big and will take a long time to occur. Starting small with indie films working with diverse stories and actors is where it starts. As long as we as artists continue to move forward hopefully, the trend follows to tell stories of more people.”