Since the list of nominees for the 2016 Academy Awards was released on Jan. 14, some have argued these nominations are missing something: diversity. Of the 20 actors and actresses nominated for an Oscar, not a single nominee is a person of color.
This is the second year in a row the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been criticized for choosing all-white nominees. A hashtag that was used to express the lack of nominees of color in 2015 has resurfaced this year—#OscarsSoWhite was posted more than 5,000 times and has reached more than 76 million people on social media.
Some actors, directors and musicians who were invited to the Oscars, like Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee, have publicly announced they will boycott the event, condemning the academy for its lack of diversity among the acting nominees.
With this pushback against the academy this year, there has been more attention than ever on social media, and it has brought conversation to some Temple students.
“[Lack of diversity in nominees] is part of the system and it’s going to continue until all of those older people are wiped out and fresher ideas and younger people are on the scene,” said senior theater major David Lawrence Glover.
Gina Williams, a sophomore theater major, said she thinks boycotting the predominantly white academy is understandable.
“‘Birdman’ won [Best Picture] last year because of this,” Williams said. “It’s about the mid-life crisis of a white, middle-aged man. … That’s the majority of the people in the academy, so that’s the only one that they could actually relate to.”
Sophomore acting major Riley Zalewski said she believes the boycotts “are a bit much,” but she understands why people are upset about the lack of diversity in the nominations, she said.
“We’ve come so far as a country, and you would think that at this point that there would be one person [of color] or more represented at the Oscars,” Zalewski said. “It’s kind of ridiculous.”
At Temple, in the School of Theater, Film and Media Arts, 599 of the 912 students were white, according to Temple University’s Student Profile conducted in 2014. Only 367 students were women.
TFMA film and video production professor LeAnn Erickson has been trying to combat this statistic through “Reel Girls,” a program that targets more than 60 high schools within an hour drive of Philadelphia to recruit girls and students of color to attend Temple.
“Different academic areas attract a different kind of demographic,” Erickson said. “I have been very upset for years at the skew of white and male in film and media arts. We can b—ch at the Oscars all we want. …But if something’s been always white and male, how will you ever break that cycle? My feeling is that we’ve got to go down the chain here.”
The academy responded to the boycotts with significant changes for the next few years. Those who are in the academy no longer have a guaranteed lifetime membership and the academy will double its memberships of women and minorities.
Glover said he isn’t sure these measures will fix the problem.
“It is like trying to put a bandaid over a wound that is fresh,” he said. “We need to let it heal a little bit more then try to find creative measures as to fixing it.”
“I’m not going to say that I think that it will change the representation of the groups [of nominees],” Glover said. “I think that it will help the decisions be made by an audience that has different perspectives than just older, white male.”
“This is a country of diversity, built upon diversity,” said Jon Diaz, a senior theater major. “And people want to see all of that. The world is a beautiful mixture of colors and should be represented in the media we consume.”
Gillian McGoldrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Video by Eurika Yu.
CORRECTION: In a version of this story that appeared in print, “Reel Girls” was incorrectly identified as “Real Girls.”