Hollywood's diversity issues extends beyond Academy voters

By Minju Park

This year’s all-white Oscar acting nominees caused an uproar among the general public, claiming that the board is acting on racism and discrimination, evidenced by the lack of minorities in the nominations. Director Spike Lee announced his refusal to attend the Oscars because of the board’s lack of minority representation, bringing high profile attention to the issuebrhttp://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/spike-lee-is-happy-about-academys-diversity-measures-but-will-still-boycott-w162424

The response was swift and drastic as the Academy board announced that changes will be implemented in the voting requirements, to facilitate further diversity in the nominees. The Academy detailed these changes in a press release, including a 10 year voting status for members before a necessary renewal process. It also announced a new focus on diversity in voting membersbr.

“At the same time, the Academy will supplement the traditional process in which current members sponsor new members by launching an ambitious, global campaign to identify and recruit qualified new members who represent greater diversity,” the Academy said in the press release.

The proposed changes by the Academy are part of an effort to double the diversity of voters by 2020, which will increase the likelihood of minority actors winning awards. However, the public doesn’t seem to be aware of the real crux of the problem—the lack of minority nominees is to be anticipated when recognizing the overwhelmingly small ratio of minority to white actors in the industry.

In order to increase diversity in the nomination while also realizing the value of minorities being represented accurately in the industry, the number of roles played by minority actors must increase, instead of simply raising the chances of receiving an award. Minority actors are often not given as many opportunities as white actors and this must be changed to promote diversity in the society outside of the movie screen.

A main cause of the lack of diversity in Oscar nominations is the “white washing” of ethnic characters . An example of this is in the movie, “The Martian,” where in the original book, one of the characters is described as Korean-American. However, in the movie version, she is played by a white actress. Another movie, “Exodus,” featured an all-white cast playing the roles of ancient Egyptians. This pattern of casting white actors for minority roles has been coined “white washing.”br http://variety.com/2015/film/news/the-martian-white-washing-asian-american-ridley-scott-1201614155 http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/exodus-racial-casting-controversy-familiar-one

The 2014 United States Census shows that the percentage of individuals who identified as non-Hispanic or Latino whites made up only 62.1 percent of the population, indicating that minorities comprised about 37.9 percentbr. However, according to the 2014 Hollywood Diversity Report, 10.5 percent of films featured a minority actor in a lead role. In most movies, minorities comprised only about 10 percent of the cast. http://www.bunchecenter.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/2014-Hollywood-Diversity-Report-2-12-14.pdf

This is clearly an inaccurate representation of American demographics, with the number of minority actors in entertainment falling dramatically short of the actual ratio of minorities.

While the Academy board and the public are right in acknowledging the misrepresentation and mistreatment of minorities in the entertainment industry, it isn’t enough to change the awards system to simply reward the few select individuals who have succeeded despite the hindering effect of their ethnicity. To promote diversity in the industry, changes must be made to increase the number of minority roles given in the first place.

This can be implemented by encouraging more film directors of minority races. These directors tend to recruit a more diverse mix of individuals in the cast compared to white directors, and would facilitate the acknowledgment and recognition of more minority actors in their films. https://thedissolve.com/news/847-new-study-finds-minority-representation-lacking-in/

In addition, the 2014 Hollywood Diversity Report found that more diverse casts tend to bring in higher ratings, which ultimately means more money. For example, the study found that TV shows with roughly half the cast comprised of minorities brought in the highest ratings among similar programs. Bringing this information to the attention of higher-ups in the entertainment business can spark a change in the range of diversity we see on television or the big screenbr. http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2014/02/12/275907930/redefining-hollywood-diversity-makes-more-money

Therefore, although the all-white Oscar nominee lineup is reflective of the problem at hand with the voter base, it is important to acknowledge the underlying problem that originates from the societal issues of racial discrimination that are still very prevalent today.

Minju is a freshman in LAS.

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