Boycott Hollywood, not Academy Awards
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The problem is with Hollywood. There is an extreme lack of minorities represented in both mainstream films and films regarded as ‘Oscar-worthy’. In order to be nominated for an Oscar, one must excel in one of the categories designated for an award. Because of the lack of minorities represented in films, it makes them difficult to nominate. The problem of racial diversity in the Academy Awards does not lie in the Oscars, but with Hollywood.
When the Academy Award nominations were announced, only white actors were among the chosen few. This resulted in a surge in concern over the amount of diversity in the Oscars, and even spurred the creation of the #OscarsSoWhite social media hashtag. Since then, multiple actors and actresses have announced their boycott of the ceremony–namely Jada Pinkett and Spike Lee.
The lack of diversity in the Academy Awards is obvious– according to People Magazine, only 15 African Americans have won an Oscar since 1929, one Hispanic, and no Latinas. Only 6.4 percent of acting nominations have gone towards non-whites since 1929, according to Time. There is also a problem in the representation of women, but not to the same extent. The representation of women in the Oscars is incredibly unequal-nominations generally go to women for costume design or makeup, but rarely for other areas like production design and adapted screenplay writing. In the entire time of the Oscars only four women have ever been nominated for best director.
Obviously, there is a problem with representation of minorities in the Academy Awards. This is not the fault of the Awards, however, but a problem with Hollywood. The Oscar nominations reflect the availability of minorities within the film industry, and the availability is very small. In order to create an increase in Oscar nominations, there would need to be an increase in casting for these minorities.
In fact, according to The 2015 Hollywood Diversity Report by Darnell Hunt, in a study of 172 movies and 1,000 tv shows only 1 in 10 leading roles went to minorities and 1 in 20 went to people of color. Leading actors are 75 percent male, and men make up 94 percent of directors. Ethnic minorities, which make up 40 percent of the U.S. population received only 17 percent of lead roles in theatrical films.
The numbers are terrifying–almost the entirety of Hollywood is white and male. Hollywood continues to ignore actors of other ethnicities, even though a large portion of the United States is made up of minorities. The idea that minorities are not represented in Hollywood because they are not present in society is ridiculous, as 4 of every 10 people in the U.S. are not white. And to think that moviegoers do not enjoy movies with diversity and therefore it will not benefit Hollywood to expand their cast is absurd, as studies show that diversity sells.
According to the report, films with more diverse casts receive the highest box office receipts and return on investment. In 2012, median worldwide box office was highest for 15 films with 31 to 40 percent minority, which is roughly equal to the share of minorities in the U.S. population.
Especially with younger crowds, which tend to push a more progressive movement within the film industry, there is an increase in demand for different types of people within films. The world is moving forward and more and more people are travelling to the United States from all over the world, and they should be represented in Hollywood in the same amount as they are present in society. The United States is ready for more representation of the population, and Hollywood needs to be ready too.
“Audiences, regardless of their race, are clamoring for more diverse content,” says co-author of the Report, Ana-Christina Ramon.
The most immediate way to fix this diversity problem is to expand the categories of the Oscars. Yet, this would not fix the larger problem: Hollywood. To fix such a large industry would require a massive movement–for people to stop watching movies with a largely white, male cast, in favor of films with more diversity. It would require higher box office receipts for films with minorities, and for people to be aware of what they are watching. The hope with this is that Hollywood will realize that diversity sells. Use of hashtags on social media is a good way to begin, but the word needs to get out.
To do this, we must be aware of what we are watching and what we are supporting. While action movies with all white male casts are fun, take some time for films with people of color, or even just more women.