Oscars, Film Industry Hammered for Lack of Diversity

CSI Students, Faculty Weigh in on the Controversy

By Gabriel Davila

With the Oscars a little more than a week away, the controversy over the nominations, where not a single person of color became a candidate, and sparked a boycott against the film industry.

“Major features don’t give enough representation because most of them are directed by predominantly white males and women have a hard time making it as a director,” said CSI Professor George Sanchez, chairperson of the Department of Performing and Creative Arts.

“Films used to talk about the world, but the reality is that the industry caters to white audiences and the cast is pre-dominantly white,” he continued

The Oscars nominees were nominated on January 14 and didn’t feature a single person of color.

Shortly after, the hashtag “#OscarsSoWhite” began to trend as people across the country expressed their disappointment in the lack of diversity.

Creator of the “#OscarsSoWhite” hashtag, April Reigh, told the Los Angeles Times that “Despite all of the talk since last year, nothing has changed, and it looks even worse this year.”

Professor Sanchez said that the issue is systematic and stretches throughout the entire industry.

“There is an employment issue for non-white actors. Storylines about culture that [are] not white are coming up more often but it’s not enough,” said Sanchez. “The membership of the Academy is pre-dominantly white and it doesn’t help diversity.”

Spike Lee, Will Smith, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Tyrese Gibson are some of the few African American stars who decided to not attend the Oscars this year and boycott.

Sylvester Stallone also considered joining the boycott, despite being an Oscar nominee himself.

In response to the uproar, President of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, Cheryl Isaacs Boone, declared by 2020 diversity will be improved within the Academy and industry itself.

“It’s a systemic problem within the Oscar selection process,” said Joseph Santangelo, a senior at CSI. “You have people who’ve been there forever and are so entrenched in their opinions, it would take a change in the hierarchy to see a solution to the problem.”

After the controversy began to grow traction, the Academy released a statement promising that it would make growth in diversity a priority for the years to come.

“In order to immediately increase diversity on the Board of Governors, the Academy will establish three new governor seats that will be nominated by the President for three-year terms and confirmed by the Board.

“The Academy will also take immediate action to increase diversity by adding new members to its executive and board committees where key decisions about membership and governance are made,” the press release continued

“This will allow new members an opportunity to become more active in Academy decision-making and help the organization identify and nurture future leaders.”

While African American stars boycotted the Oscars for the lack of diversity, others like Charlotte Rampling, who was nominated for an Academy award for Best Actress, disagreed that there was anything wrong with the process at all.

“The supposed calls to boycott the Oscars are racist against whites,” Rampling told Frances Europe 1 in a radio interview. “…Sometimes maybe black actors didn’t deserve to make the shortlist.”

Entertainment Weekly reported French-American actress Julie Delpy’s comments regarding the Oscars So White controversy,

“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,” she said.

“It’s funny — women can’t talk. I sometimes wish I were African-American,” Deply continued. “Because people don’t bash them afterward.”

She later issued an apology.

“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,” Delpy wrote. “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].”

The Oscar Awards Ceremony will be televised on February 28, with Chris Rock as the latest host of the awards show.

The comedian commented on the Oscars this year being the “white BET awards.”

“The Oscars issue has been around for a long time, it’s not new. Boycotting the Oscars might make a huge impact and I’m excited to see Chris Rock as the M.C. (master of ceremonies) because he’ll have a field day with what’s been going on with the Oscars,” said Professor Sanchez.

Sanchez also cited signs that Hollywood is making small signs of improvement within the realm of diversity and inclusiveness.

One of the movies nominated for an Oscar, “The Revenant,” “hired Native American actors, uses indigenous language, and involves Native American iconography, cultures and myths in its narrative,” Sanchez said.

“Even with the questions and criticisms this raises in terms of authorship, it is a significant event for Hollywood and for our major films culture.”

Although the Oscars controversy sparked comments between both minorities and majorities, other people like Joshua Davis, an African American junior student at CSI, shares a much different perspective.

“I watch the awards to enjoy the awards and I watch the films people were nominated for,” said Davis. “I don’t think it’s a race thing.”

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