If anybody was expecting the controversy surrounding this year’s Oscar nominations to just blow over, you can officially forget about it. Not only has the discussion of the controversy continued, but now the voices are just getting louder. While most of the people weighing in on the topic have been from within the Hollywood establishment, now the conversation has reached a new high. The President of the United States has voiced his own opinion.
Barack Obama was asked by a reporter on Wednesday what his thoughts were on the controversy. While the President stopped short of criticizing the nominations directly, he did say, according to Entertainment Weekly, that the Oscar problems are part of similar problems within the nation that need to be addressed.
I think when everybody’s story is told, then that makes for better art. That makes for better entertainment. It makes everybody feel part of one American family. So I think, as a whole, the industry should do what every other industry should do, which is to look for talent, provide opportunity to everybody. [This controversy is] just an expression of this broader issue of: Are we making sure that everybody is getting a fair shot?
The President’s comments echo those of several within the Hollywood establishment that see the lack of diversity in this year’s nominations, not as the problems themselves, but as a symptom of a larger issue. The perceived problem is that there is a lack of opportunity for minority actors to get some of the top roles which end up leading to nominations for awards. The argument continues that performances by minority actors are being overlooked by Academy members, though the reason for the slights remains unclear. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has announced they will be implementing changes to their membership in order to achieve a more diverse voting base.
The nomination controversy has caused strong reactions from both sides of the issue. Notable filmmakers like Spike Lee as well as Jada Pinkett Smith and her husband Will Smith, have announced they will not be attending this year’s ceremony due to the lack of diversity in the nominations. Others within the Academy have said publicly that they are offended by the implications of racism in the choices, simply pointing out that the nominations are extremely competitive, and that many deserving performers, of different races, were left out.
It should make for an interesting, if somewhat tense, awards show when the Oscars are broadcast on February 28th. Chris Rock has made it clear that the topic will be addressed during the show.
While the Oscars may be industry awards, their importance is apparently such that the President of the United States takes notice. While it’s unlikely that Obama’s view will have any impact on the outcome of the issue, it’s clear that he’ll be watching to see what happens.