Oscars Receive Criticism over Lack of Diversity

Criticism of this year’s lack of diversity in Oscar nominations is not a new trend. Few awards have been given to actors of color since 2000.


Criticism of this year’s lack of diversity in Oscar nominations is not a new trend. Few awards have been given to actors of color since 2000.

By Thomas Atkinson and Jasmine Baten

I think my color TV is broken!

For the second year in a row, the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences has not nominated any actors of color for an Academy Award. In a time where we have a black president and numerous racial awareness movements, one would expect to see award shows depicting an accurate portrayal of our country’s different cultures. Instead, only a few non-white actors seem to get recognition at all, whether it be by the Academy or as well-developed characters in shows.

It’s past time that we face the reality that racism isn’t just limited to the already-accomplished task of abolishing slavery. It has continued on in almost every facet of our lives, and it needs to stop.

Movies such as Creed and Straight Outta Compton which featured strong black actors and received lots of critical praise, were completely left out of the nomination list, leaving many wondering if there was not something wrong with the movies themselves but with those voting on them instead.

According to a Jan. 2016 New York Times article, 94 percent of the Academy voters are white and their average age is 62.

Basically, this means that a homogeneous group is deciding which movies and actors get nominated, and while they’re probably not obviously racist, the results of their votes make it quite clear that there’s a “winning type,” with little room for a different voice.

The Oscars’ snub provoked actress Jada Pinkett Smith and Director Spike Lee to announce their intentions to boycott the Oscars in addition to the developing of the exasperated but truthful Twitter hashtag: #OscarsSoWhite which was started by April Reign, a Managing Editor for BroadwayBlack.com

The sad part is that this isn’t the first time this has happened. The Oscars saw a similar rebellion from Marlon Brando (The Godfather) in 1973, when he asked a Native American activist to accept his award and explain that he didn’t attend because he felt that non-white characters were being inaccurately and unfairly portrayed.

The issue of racial representation in American awards ceremonies has been around since the Oscars began 87 years ago, and not much has changed since then. This lack of representation in the Oscars may contribute to the even bigger problem of Hollywood not offering as many roles to minority actors.

The small percentage of non-white actors that are in movies often times have very small roles. The even more startling proof is in the “Every Single Word” movement, started by Tumblr user Dylan Marron, in which movies are condensed to only include lines spoken by non-white characters.

According to the Every Single Word videos, childhood favorites like the Harry Potter movies have less than five minutes of script spoken by characters of color out of the 19-hour franchise, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy’s only lines belonging to non-white characters are spoken by Orcs (the disfigured zombie-warriors). Then there are films like Jaws and Into the Woods that have absolutely no lines spoken by even a single non-white character.

This limited racial representation isn’t just an annoyance. It points to both a deeper sense of ingrained prejudice that today’s society has come to accept as the norm as well as a disappointing lack of relatable characters and actors for non-white viewers.

Whether certain celebrities’ actions are worthy of admiration, the truth is that they and their characters are role models, and it’s essential that an adolescent or child grow up with a role model they can relate to, whether that role model is an actor or a character an actor has played. Though relating to a character or an actor’s personality is one thing, teenagers should be able to choose a mentor that faces the same struggles as they do.

For some CHS students, the struggle to find that mentor would be difficult, considering that CHS is extremely diverse. Students vary in every way, from race and religion to sexuality and size. It is at this most critical time, when students are discovering who they are, that realistic role models be made available, even if that mentor provides support from a screen.

It’s easy to find and adore a fierce hero with Matt Damon in The Martian. Even easier to find a quirky but loveable girl: Jennifer Lawrence in Joy. It’s even possible to find a trans character in Eddie Redmayne’s performance in The Danish Girl.

Now try to find a non-white equivalent for each. After all, Selma was a huge fan favorite, and Will Smith’s performance in Concussion was widely praised. On a similar scale, shows like Orange is the New Black, Sense8 and Quantico exist, where racial diversity is obvious. But the problem lies in the fact that these actors and shows are too few and far between.

Though the discrimination may be accepted as a disappointing pattern for past generations, a rise in awareness and new movements should be arousing a desire for change in this generation.

Ranging from #BlackLivesMatter to #MuslimLivesMatter, pro-diverse movements have sparked a global revolution, proving how there truly is strength in numbers. These movements started with shootings and other horrific incidents and have transformed into calls for change. Hopefully these movements will prove the aptitude that non-white cultures wield and how important it is to feature people of color.

And whenever that representation finally shows itself, we’d like to thank the Academy.