The Academy President Doesn’t Think The Oscars Have A Diversity Problem, But Also Wants To See More Diversity (?)
Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the first African-American president of the Academy, has spoken out about #OscarsSoWhite – and her response, perhaps unsurprisingly, isn’t what we all hoped to hear.
When asked by Vulture if she thinks the Academy Awards have a problem recognizing diversity in light of the whitest Oscars since 1998, Boone Isaacs said,
Not at all. Not at all. The good news is that the wealth of talent is there, and it’s being discussed, and it’s helpful so much for talent — whether in front of the camera or behind the camera — to have this recognition, to have this period of time where there is a lot of publicity, a lot of chitter-chatter.
Which, honestly, I’m not entirely sure what that means at all. The wealth of talent is there and being publicized by the press – but it’s not being recognized by the Academy, and there’s only so much that chitter-chatter can do.
And when Vulture asked specifically about Selma‘s snubs, Boone Isaac replied, “Well, it’s a terrific motion picture, and that we can never and should not take away from it, the fact that it is a terrific motion picture. There are a lot of terrific motion pictures, it’s a very competitive time, and there’s a lot of great work that has been done. I am very happy that Selma is included in our eight terrific motion-picture [nominations].”
I think Josh Malina probably has the best response to that:
Selma was an excellent movie that acted and directed itself beautifully.
— Joshua Malina (@JoshMalina) January 15, 2015
On the other hand, the Associated Press reports that Boone Isaacs also said the Academy is “committed to seeking out diversity of voice and opinion,” and have admitted more “inclusive classes” of members over the last two years. Though that’s undoubtedly helpful – especially given that a 2012 study by the Los Angeles Times discovered that Academy voters are 94% white, 77% male, with a median age of 62, and only 14% of voters under the age of 50. But the fact is that Academy membership is for life, and with 7,000 members, the voting demographic is unlikely to undergo any major shift anytime soon – especially since new members are recruited by existing ones. The Hollywood boys’ club remains strong.
Additionally, further contradicting her statement to Vulture, Boone Isaacs told AP that “personally, [she] would love to see and look[s] forward to see[ing] a greater cultural diversity among all our nominees in all of our categories.”
After her statement last year that Lupita Nyong’o’s Academy Award “means a major door will have been kicked down,” Boone Isaacs said diversity in films needs to be mandatory. “It matters that we pay attention to, again, the diversity of voice and opinion and experience, and that it doesn’t slide, it doesn’t slide anywhere except for forward,” she said. “And maybe this year is more just about let’s kick it in even more.”
So to recap, Boone Isaacs says the Academy is actively trying to recruit more diverse members, more diversity in film should be mandatory, and she wants to see more diversity in their nominees – but that the Academy Awards don’t have a diversity problem.
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