AWARD SHOWS MAKE STRIDES TOWARD DIVERSITY
January 31, 2017
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Since the dawn of film entertainment in the early twentieth century, there have been several fundamental issues pertaining to the intersection of race and Hollywood. From the inaccurate portrayal of African-Americans in blackface films reminiscent of minstrel shows to the recurring whitewashing of Asian characters, countless instances of racism in the film industry abound. Thankfully, in recent years, overt racism in movies has significantly decreased, but a new problem has emerged: the lack of ethnic representation at major award shows.
Since the first Academy Awards in 1929, annual award ceremonies have consistently highlighted the greatest achievements in film for their respective year; however, some cinema fans believe that the history of these awards has not favored actors, directors, and crew members of ethnic minorities.
“As someone who wants to go into the film industry as a woman and as a minority, I am concerned about the predispositions of the people who might want to hire me,” senior Grace Yao said. “The progress we’re making right now is something, but it’s not enough.”
There is evident truth to this claim; from 1980 to 2015, 84 percent of Oscar-winning actors have been white with only 16 percent of the awards going to performers of different ethnic backgrounds. This clashes significantly with the actual demographics of the United States, of which only 61 percent are white, with minorities making up 39 percent of the population.
In January 2016, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) sparked outrage by nominating only white actors in the four acting categories for the second year in a row, which some believed to be a shining indication of racism in Hollywood. Even the host of the ceremony, African-American comedian Chris Rock, commented on the situation.
“We want opportunity,” Rock said. “We want black actors to get the same opportunities as white actors. And not just once.”
Consequently, there has been undeniable progress made in recent years toward inclusion. At the 2017 Golden Globe Awards, for example, three black actors walked away with awards, with non-white nominees in nearly every category. And, on Jan. 24, viewers rejoiced as the AMPAS nominated at least one person of color in each acting category.
There are still steps to be taken to ensure diversity at award shows and in Hollywood as a whole. Some activists suggest diversification in the fields of writing and producing, while others demand a more ethnic Academy membership. Passionate members of the film industry will stop at nothing until equality is achieved.