The nominees for the 88th Academy Awards were announced on Jan. 14 and since then, the reaction has created a division both within Hollywood and the general public. While many films and actors received deserving nominations, there is an alarming lack of diversity. For the second year in a row, the Academy Awards has not nominated any actors of color and the continued issue has understandably outraged many actors. I agree with this reaction: There is no excuse for the lack of presence at any award show, least of all one as prominent as the Academy Awards. This has prompted the decision by some to boycott the award show to express their anger and disappointment. If certain actors and movie industry individuals choose to boycott the show, that is their prerogative; however, I do not see that as a long-term solution to the problem. Many have stated that there is no reason to be angry with those who have been nominated this year because each show, film or actor nominated is considered deserving of that recognition. While I agree that these categories are filled with deserving nominees, we should be focusing on the greater issue — the discrepancy in the movie industry and how the lack of diversity in films and television shows is the reason why the chances of an actor of color being nominated is diminished. Instead of focusing on those who are now refusing to attend the event, we should be pointing to the reason why there are limited actors to choose from in the first place.

The chance of an actor of color being nominated for a major award comes down to standard probability. Probability is defined as the measure of the likelihood that an event will occur. When there is little racial and gender diversity like there is in the film industry, the likelihood of an actor of a minority being nominated is improbable, purely based on the numbers. The Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles published their 2015 Hollywood Diversity Report that analyzes diversity in the Hollywood entertainment industry. The report stated, “…minorities… claimed 16.7 percent of the lead roles in the 174 films examined for 2013.” However, they also stated that in 2013, minorities represented 37.4 percent of the U.S. population, making their ratio of underrepresentation a little above 2-1 among lead roles in films. I consider this ratio to be outrageous given the dramatically higher percentage at which we see white characters portrayed as leads in films. In that same year, white actors accounted for 83.3 percent — a decreased percentage from the previous two years, but staggering nonetheless. The discrepancy is inexcusable and rather than merely boycott award shows like actor Will Smith and director Spike Lee, there should be a move to create more films that focus on actors other than those who fall into the category of white, heterosexual male.

It is easy to blame the Academy for aiding in the lack of representation shown at these high profile events that are meant to honor the actors of year. However, the Academy under representing actors of color at the award show is only the tip of the iceberg. It is time for more films to be made featuring actors of color so that there is a more diverse selection to choose from. If that is achieved and we continue to have talented actors ignored, then the problem is bigger than numbers — it is undeniably racist. Actors have spoken out to some degree, but it is time that we all do the same and add to the dialogue. In a recent “Stag-gering Opinion,” a column that is featured in the Fairfield Mirror’s Opinion section, I asked what people on campus thought about the complaint that there is a lack of diversity in the Academy Award nominees. While the people I interviewed do not represent the entire campus — or every moviegoer — each person I asked stated that although they were not surprised, they were disappointed by this year’s line-up. I believe that their reactions speak loudly toward the general population and while boycotting the awards may be a short-term solution to shine attention upon the issue, those who are not directly impacted will soon forget it again. Therefore, we should not view this in the short-term or wait until 2020 to see if the Academy truly diversifies its voters so that the award show as a result is more diverse, like they claimed in a statement released. Instead, there needs to be a continued dialogue and our focus needs to be on the existing disparity of those cast in films and the need to create more films that represent our diverse society.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.