The controversy over another (almost) All White Oscars won’t go away. Part of this is demographics. In order to become a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences you have to a) be an Oscar nominee or b) be sponsored by two members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Since there are relatively few minority members the system, critics contend, is self-perpetuating. It’s hard to argue the logic.
Some have had enough. Jada Pinkett Smith is boycotting the Oscars as is Spike Lee, both wanting to strike a public blow for diversity. The head of the Academy has promised to change the way members are chosen…kind of unstack the deck.
I have no trouble believing Spike Lee is sincere. This guy wrote Do The Right Thing! I am less convinced about Jada. If her husband Will Smith had been nominated for Concussion would she be part of this discussion? Publicly?
Do I think minority performances are overlooked? Hell yeah. For instance, Idris Elba and Abraham Attah were brilliant and the story itself in Beasts of No Nation was compelling. The lack of recognition could be as much a slight against Netflix as against minorities. (Although the actor told British MPs there’s a diversity problem on tv there too.)
There is a big bright spot. There are so many more players on the field, so many more content providers. Can’t get your project greenlit by a major studio? Take it to a streaming service. USA Network has Mr. Robot! Starz has Outlander. This would have been unthinkable a few years ago when HBO was really the only alternative. The more options you have the more opportunities you have the more success you can achieve and the more visible your success, the more attainable it appears to someone walking in your footsteps.
So, let the Academy stay white until demographics catch up with the membership. Unless you diversify, you are no longer relevant. There’s a reason people are staying home from the movies (except for blockbusters). Television has become more relevant. And more global. And more representative.
I really don’t think a boycott of the Oscars will make much of a difference. Let Chris Rock take a few shots and move on. The real seismic shake up has already begun with Master of None and Jane the Virgin and ShondaLand.