#OscarSoWhite: The dark truth of a white Academy

Published: January 17, 2015
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As the lucky nominees for the 2015 Oscars were revealed yesterday, there was a huge uproar on social media regarding the nomination list.

Many in Hollywood and on social media were deeply offended by the lack of racial diversity present in this year’s Oscar nominees. This is the first time since 1998 that no person of colour, Hispanic or Asian, was nominated for the Academy Awards in the acting categories. This comes across as a surprise considering both the country’s president and the president of the Academy of Motion Picture, Arts and Sciences are African-American.

While it is important to note that, in the past two decades, a large number of African-American, Hispanic and Asian actors and directors have been recognised by the Academy, the blatant subtraction of colour this year is just not acceptable. Director Steve McQueen’s masterpiece 12 Years A Slave won best picture last year; Alfonso Cuaron, a Mexican film director, won an award for his production Gravity; director Ang Lee, from Taiwan, has won twice for Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi. Many African-American actors and actresses with the likes of Lupita Nyong’o, Sidney Poitier, Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Cuba Gooding Jr, Hattie McDaniel, Halle Berry, Forest Whitaker, Whoopi Goldberg and Jamie Foxx have also all won Academy awards previously. But when the nominees for the 2015 Oscars, were revealed yesterday, there was a huge outcry on social media.

The uproar, however, was not only because all the actors and actresses nominated in the Best Actor/Actress category and Best Supporting Actor/Actress categories were white, it was also the fact that many new talents were completely ignored – snubbed – by the academy. So it was not like there were people who did not ‘deserve’ the nomination. People like author Gillian Flynn, whose novel was adapted for the motion picture “Gone Girl” and director of the film “Selma”, Ava DuVernay who, only a few weeks ago, became the first African-American woman to ever be nominated at the Golden Globe Awards, were side-lined. Although Selma has been nominated for ‘Best Picture’ and ‘Original Song’, the author, herself, did not make the cut. David Oyelowo, who gives a powerful performance as Martin Luther King Jr in Selma, was also overlooked even though his performance has been the talk of the town since the movie’s release.

Soon after the nominees were revealed, the hashtag #OscarSoWhite and #OscarNorms started trending on Twitter with people calling it ‘typical of the Academy’ to indulge in this ‘lack of diversity’.

Reverend Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, was quite vocal about his disapproval with regards to the lack of diversity shown by the Academy this year when he furiously exclaimed, at an emergency meeting to address the ‘appalling’ all-White Oscar nominees,

“The lack of diversity in today’s Oscar nominations is appalling and while it is good that Selma was nominated for ‘Best Picture’, it’s ironic that they nominated a story about the racial shutout around voting while there is a racial shutout around the Oscar nominations. With all of the talent in Selma and other black movies this year, it is hard to believe that we have less diversity in the nominations today than in recent history.”

On a separate note, President Obama hosted a special screening yesterday, of the film Selma, about Martin Luther King and the Alabama civil rights march of 1965. This was done a day after critics snubbed the film from the nomination list. As per reports, the screening had been scheduled for a while to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr weekend.

While it is understandable that certain films do not make the cut, it is hard to believe that there was NO film that met the Academy’s rather stringent standards. The Academy has already been criticised for being old, white and male dominant. As per statistics, the voting members of the Academy, who select the nominated artists, are 94% white, 77% male and have a median age of 62. The result: 93% of all nominees are White. It may be a stretch to say this is all just a coincidence and we may be making a mountain out of a molehill, the sad reality is lack of diversity does exist – and it exists at the grass-root level where the struggle first begins. Unless bigger organisations like the Academy do not play their part in recognising the deficit, no matter how good or talented one is, there will never truly be equality in this world.

Almas Akhtar

Almas Akhtar

The writer is a blogger, author, an ardent cricket fan, a movie buff, and an avid traveler. Her latest novella “The Fearful Lion” won an honourable mention at the 2018 New York Book Festival.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Parvez

    There’s something very wrong with this write up……..it comes across as a demand for recognition……that’s something you struggle for and not demand.Recommend

  • ab1990

    those who demand diversity instead of merit dont deserve anything in their life.
    Even in india muslims are asking for reservation instead of working hard.

    Shameless people who demand respect instead of working for it are the reason why countries dont have a peaceful life.Recommend

  • ab1990

    those who demand diversity instead of merit dont deserve anything in their life.
    Even in india muslims are asking for reservation instead of working hard.

    Shameless people who demand respect instead of working for it are the reason why countries dont have a peaceful life.Recommend

  • IceColdFire

    Gone Girl was only nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Not Best Picture or Song.Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    Which black/hispanic/Asian actors,directors and writers etc have shown great talent this year? I tried to search but tbh except selma I could not find anything good. Perhaps the author can point out some talent?Recommend

  • Almas

    I totally agree with you : yes there is only one nomination for gone girl that is for best actress . I clearly stated that Selma was nominated for only best picture and best song . I think there was a typo mistake ,I have emailed the staff at express tribune to correct it.
    I was referring to the female directors of Gone Girl and Selma who were not nominated .
    As for the answer that there are not other movies beside Selma in 2014 which should be recognized there are actually 3 which I think were worthy of recognition
    1. “No good deed ” story about a black mother
    2. “The good lie “story about the Sudanese orphans and their journey to refugee camps

    3.” Get on up “life story of James Brown

    Also Angelina Jolie was overlooked for her directorial debut for Unbroken

    Recommend

  • African Knight

    Hollywood is a money making machine and it doesn’t care what colour the money is. I am not sure what’s stopping the black people organising their awards, do they need the approvals of white or they scared that the lack of black talent will be exposed.Recommend

  • Critical

    Oh yeah,here comes Al Sharpton and his fellow goons who cry discrimination everytime….

    Let me refresh the Oscar trends past few years

    12 years a slave :Torture Porn at its best…The entire movie was taken just to show how a black slave gets tortured without showing much of a bigger picture of the problems of slavery

    Butler :Forest Whitaker’s acting aside,it was a snoozefest

    The Help:Good movie but was it Oscar worthy????

    I watched Selma 2 weeks ago..It was good but it was slightly better than the BBC or history channel movies they make on illuminaries…Spike Lee’s Malcolm X had more depth to the character than Selma..It would have been more surprising if the movie actually won Oscar battling against the likes of Boyhood,night crawler,Budapest Hotel,Gone Girl…

    The era where Blacks fought for equal treatment is over and now they are replaced by crooks who want special treatment citing past racial prejudice…

    Already the critics hype all racial related movies just to show that they are politically neutral inspite of them being slightly better than mediocre movies…

    What next??? They want Madea movies for Best Picture,Chris Rock for best actor or Tyler Perry for best director,Lil Wayne for Best Music ????

    In the past few months,after Michael Brown shooting,there was a huge uproar that there arent enough black people in Police department….It was found from investigation that very few black men actually apply for law enforcement as they dont have enough academic qualifications and their pass percentage is also less…In few counties with higher black population,the exam board actually lowered the cut off for blacks even though they pride themselves as “equal opportunity employers” but still they dont get enough black as police..

    Do you want the police to hire incompetent men as officers just to justify equality or Oscars to nominate a token black candidate to justify they are not #whiteOscars…Recommend