I have always been in love with cinema and the art of making them. As a youngster I remember going to the open air theaters with my mom and my dad got me to appreciate Hollywood movies. It was this love for movies that made us watch the Oscars and we made this a ritual even when I had to go school or he had to work. If we couldn’t catch it in the morning live then we would watch the repeat telecast in the night. I have been thinking about this little ritual even when I was watching one of the most controversial years in Oscar history. I am just an average viewer and I watch films with so much love and anticipation. What about people who make films, who act in them, who are part of the big team that takes to make a film? What happens to them when they are not given equal opportunities or even acknowledged for their hard work? That is the main question that has been at the front end of Oscars 2016.
For those who don’t know, the voting process is a long and complicated one. To become one of the shortlisted, one has to first pass a strict level of guidelines which can be found at the Academy’s official website. There are over 6000 academy members involved in the voting process and these include people of all fields of film making – actors, directors, editors, cinematographers, composers and many more. To become part of the official nominees is also not that easy. The whole process is very nicely explained in this article by Sean Hutchison.
The accounting firm that has been managing the Oscars for the last 80 odd years is Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) – they are the ones who maintain the voting process and the number crunching once the votes are in. Once the numbers are in, there are only 2 representatives of PWC who know the winners and they are obviously sworn to secrecy.
Anyways, we are digressing here. The big question is when the process is so complicated and is a game of probability, then why are debates about #OscarsSoWhite breaking the internet? Is it just because this is the second year in a row that every single of the nominees were white? Or is it because more blacks boycotted the Oscars this year than any other year?
Chris Rock’s monologue didn’t try to hide the fact that there is a problem. But so didn’t the Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs who is definitely not white. I am not saying it’s all good but the problem runs deeper than that. It’s not that the Academy is too white. It reflects the industry and the industry in turn reflects on the country as a whole. And it’s not just America – you would be mistaken. It runs deep in countries like India too where people want to ‘become white’. And these problems will not get solved just by boycotting something. As Chris Rock said, the Academy wouldn’t cancel the awards just because he said no to host the awards. The show must go on right?
The problem should be looked at not just at the end of the line but at the beginning of the line – the producers and the studio executives to have more movies from people of color. The academy over the last 4 years has made some changes to get more diversity in the academy members but as Isaacs confirmed, the changes are way too slow to get adopted. But is it just Hollywood?
The Pew Research center in January 2015 found that the 114th Congress of US is grossly underrepresented for all minority groups and is still disproportionately white. According to the 2015 American Society of News Editors census, blacks and Hispanics make up only 4.74 and 4.19 percent, respectively, of newsroom employees. Consider this infograph of key technology companies, the numbers are pathetic.
And lack of diversity is deep rooted in politics, jobs, day-to-day life even. So how can you blame the academy of being all white? As I write this I am thinking and researching deeply on why this could be a global problem. Maybe I will write another post on this. Any reasons for diversity issues globally you know of are welcome.