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Oscars to Make Changes to Promote Inclusion

91st Oscars title card.

After getting dragged on and off for years, and in the midst of national upheaval on a number of fronts, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is making some big changes when it comes to inclusion and supporting more diverse films. And there also may be some big changes on the horizon for when the ceremony will actually happen in 2021.

Firstly, the Academy and their board of governors know that they have screwed up, with recent years seeing “#OscarsSoWhite” and “#OscarsSoMale” becoming rallying calls to shame the industry. This year of all years, it is time to take proactive and major steps to fix the Oscars, and thus, encourage Hollywood to make and release films with better and broader representation. In a statement, Academy Dawn Hudson said:

While the Academy has made strides, we know there is much more work to be done in order to ensure equitable opportunities across the board. The need to address this issue is urgent. To that end, we will amend — and continue to examine — our rules and procedures to ensure that all voices are heard and celebrated.

Academy president David Rubin also added: “to truly meet this moment, we must recognize how much more needs to be done, and we must listen, learn, embrace the challenge and hold ourselves and our community accountable.”

That’s all very nice and good, but what does it mean? Well, we’re not really sure yet. Apparently, the academy, in good ol’ bureaucratic fashion will be setting up a task force “to develop and implement new representation and inclusion standards for Oscars eligibility by July 31, 2020.”

This may mean many things. One huge step would be to set requirements on how many people from marginalized groups a movie must employ to be eligible for an Oscar. For instance, if every member of the camera crew is a white male: no Oscar for you! But that’s just an idea.

One thing we do know that the Academy will do is that the nominee list for Best Picture will now permanently be set at ten films, which will, hopefully, serve to increase the visibility and awards viability of more films. But we’ll have to wait until July to find out what more they suggest.

What we might also have to wait for is … the Oscars themselves. The Board of Governors will meet today to decide on delaying next year’s awards ceremony, currently scheduled for February 28, 2020. They will also very likely decided on an extended eligibility window, given that coronavirus has, to put it lightly, completely screwed up movie making and releases in 2020.

UPDATE: The Academy has announced that the 2021 Oscars will take place on April 25, and films released until February 28th will be eligible.

It’s very good that the Academy is looking at the two major crises in America (COVID and systemic racism) and trying to do something. It would be easy for them to expect the studios and creatives to sort things out themselves, but they are using the power of their position to nudge Hollywood towards change that’s been long coming. But it may be a long time until they actually get to give out any awards when and if things get better.

(via: The Hollywood Reporter, image: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.