The Oscars are upon us, and we have to come right out and say that the nominees represent an endlessly talented group of people. However, chances are you have already heard some of the rumblings that people aren’t exactly pleased with the decisions of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. When the Oscar nominations came out earlier this week, the first thing everyone noticed was how decidedly caucasion the field was. The absence of diversity among this year’s Oscar nominees has become a major topic among the Hollywood landscape, and members of the community have begun to speak out.
Straight Outta Compton producer Will Packer took to Facebook to voice his concern over the lack of diversity among this year’s Oscar nominations, this is a small part of what he had to say:
WE HAVE TO DO BETTER. Period. The reason the rest of the world looks at us like we have no clue is because in 2016 it's a complete embarrassment to say that the heights of cinematic achievement have only been reached by white people. I repeat—it's embarrassing. It's unfair to the performers of color who sacrificed so much, laid it all on the line AND DELIVERED with their projects this year. It's also unfair to the white actors, writers, producers and directors who gave everything they had to create career defining content only to have it marred by the fact that a lack of diversity calls into question the legitimacy of The Academy's choices.
Will Packer does have a serious point that is worth looking into. Looking over all of the high quality films that hit theaters in 2015, it’s plain to see that a range of people across numerous ethnicities produced content that could be considered Oscar worthy. However, by the time the Academy had come to a decision on nominees, almost all people of color had been excluded from the field. It’s unfair to the minority filmmakers who brought their absolute A-game over the last year, and it’s unfair to the white nominees because now everyone has to question the validity of the Academy’s decision. Packer did take the time to congratulate the white nominees – particularly Jon Herman and Andrea Berloff, who penned Straight Outta Compton – but that doesn’t change the point of his statement. The outrage has even led to the resurgence of the social media hash tag #oscarssowhite, which took the Internet by storm last year – when the same issue reared its head.
Let me be perfectly clear when I emphasize the fact that nobody is saying the white nominees don’t deserve their spots this year; that would be absurd the artists that received this honor most certainly earned it. It just seems as though the Academy had donned blinders to the contributions of minority filmmakers. Actors like Idris Elba, Jason Mitchell, and Michael B. Jordan all gave powerhouse performances – among numerous others, while directors such as Ryan Coogler and F. Gary Gray most certainly deserved some sort of recognition for their ability to craft compelling, engaging films.
With regards to 2015’s filmmaking season, what’s done is done. All we can hope is that the outrage and outcry against the Academy’s decision will reverberate back up to the top, and someone will decide to do something about it next year. Until then, all we can do is support filmmakers of all ethnicities, and evaluate them based upon the quality of their work above all else. The Oscars will air on February 28, and will be hosted by comedian Chris Rock.