While the Oscars have a long way to go, some supporters believe the Oscars are at least trying—especially with 2017's diverse pool of nominees. On one hand, Hollywood hasn't invested in enough diverse projects. Hence—the Oscars remain so white. Yet, as Best Picture nominee "Hidden Figures" proves, actors of color can lead acclaimed blockbusters. Many filmmakers and actors of color are breaking new ground, but Hollywood is still struggling to diversify and step outside of its the stereotypical, formulaic box.
And when people of color are sometimes nominated, they often fit into certain archetypes the Academy loves. For example, the Academy had no problem honoring "12 Years a Slave," a typical slave narrative. Yet, "Selma" was pretty much ignored—a movie that unapologetically showed Black actors as significant and historic leaders.
"Selma" actor David Oyelowo said the Academy loves to see Black people in subservient roles back in 2015. And the same goes for other actors of color who are even less likely to win or be nominated. You have to fit the stereotype. The problem isn't "12 Years a Slave," an deservingly acclaimed film with an important narrative. The problem is the Academy's unwillingness to nominate diverse bodies of work—let alone nominate deserving actors and filmmakers of color. The lack of representation and opportunity also falls on the shoulders of Hollywood as an industry.
But the Oscars are at least paying attention and making moves to be inclusive. Take the 89th Annual Academy Awards. Several diverse films are nominated for Best Picture, Best Documentary, and six Black acting nominees made history this year. And British Indian actor Dev Patel, the seventh acting nominee of a color, might stand a chance to win—which would mark the first time an Asian actor has won the Oscar in 32 years.
So, are the Oscars doing enough to address diversity issues?
The L.A. Times writes the Oscars are now more inclusive across color lines, but female filmmakers are still largely ignored. But Reign's campaign was created to champion an intersection of marginalized communities—not just Black actors and filmmakers. Oscars are still so white because WHITE men are still mainly represented.
While many Black nominees are nominated this year, it's still a rarity. Back in 2015 and 2016, there were no actors or filmmakers of color nominated in the major categories with the exception of a Best Picture nomination for "Selma" in 2015. While many hoped Ava DuVernay would become the first Black woman nominated for Best Director—she was ignored in 2015. The next year wasn't different at all; Jada Pinkett and Spike Lee joined in protesting the Oscars. The Oscars have always had racial, ethnical and gender issues throughout its history as the industry's preeminent awards show.
The Oscars still have a long way to go to be inclusive of people of color, LGBTQ people and women.
The Daily Dot interviewed Reign last year after the Oscars failed to recognize diversity in filmmakers and actors two years in the role.
Reign credits the Oscars’ diversity issues to a larger problem in Hollywood: opportunity. She says people of color aren’t given the same opportunities as white actors and filmmakers. Consider Idris Elba, who was favored this year for a Best Supporting Actor nod in Beasts of No Nation (2015) but ultimately not nominated. “When you don’t reflect the real world, too much talent gets trashed,” Elba said the week of the nominations, according to the Guardian. “Thrown on the scrapheap. Talent is everywhere; opportunity isn’t. And talent can’t reach opportunity.”
2017 has been an unusually diverse for the Oscars, but some are wondering if it will last. Others argue there's much more work to do. Variety's Brent Lang and Mannie Holmes about the long road ahead for Hollywood. And that's just it—it's not just an Oscars problem, it's a Hollywood problem.
Yet despite the optimism, Hollywood has an enormous amount of ground to make up and work to do to bring creative and financial equality and inclusion to what remains a white male-dominated business.
“I don’t think there should be praise [for the number of minority nominees]; I think there should be an understanding that this should have happened and that this should have been happening for many years,” says Aldis Hodge, an actor who has appeared in “Hidden Figures” and “Straight Outta Compton.” “I don’t want to sound negative, but this is something that — in terms of recognition — this should be a normalcy. Inclusion should always be a normalcy because the contributions do not come in one color in the industry.”
Bustle's Olivia Truffaut-Wong wrote an in-depth analysis of the Oscars' history of diversity issues. It's still a rarity for actors and filmmakers to win Oscars, let alone be nominated. And after one good year in diverse nominations, diversity isn't the Oscars' norm yet.
In 2017, it can be easy to assume that diverse acting nominees translate to an increasingly diverse Hollywood, but it's important to remember that it takes more than a few nominations, or even an Oscar win, to truly change the racial landscape of Hollywood.
Deadline's Michael Cieply highlighted out all the actors and filmmakers of color nominated at the 89th Academy Awards. And the list is extensive. He acknowledges Hollywood wants to be progressive.
But the two-year shutout provoked a severe backlash, led by the #OscarsSoWhite social media campaign, followed by a strong response from the Academy, which on January 22 of last year announced a five-year drive to diversify its membership, and immediate steps to add women and ethnically diverse members to its governing board.
With major nominations for "Moonlight," "Hidden Figures" and "Fences," NBCBLK's Annette Ejiofor said the Oscars went from being white to Blacker than ever. It's the first time ever Black actors have been nominated in all four major acting categories.
While Black actors are being acknowledged at the Oscars (and that doesn't happen often), Asian-American actors are still fighting for representation in film and recognition for their contributions to filmmaking. Latinx people and other people of color are also scarcely recognized.
Asian roles are often times whitewashed. Just look at "The Great Wall" and "Ghost in the Shell." Yet, there's no shortage in Asian talent.
Just last year, the Academy was 91 percent white, and 76 percent male. Now the Oscars have a mandate to diversify throughout the next few years. The Academy already added 700 new and diverse members in 2016. And with the 2017 field of nominees, people are hopeful the Oscars are on the right track.