Snubbed and Being Snubbed: Diversity at the Oscars

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Posted on February 2, 2016, at 12:30 a.m.
by Kala Brumbaugh.

This is the second year in a row the Academy Award nominations have caused an uproar. Social media outrage first erupted in January and February of 2015 when the Academy announced its nominees for acting, who were all white.

Users flooded Twitter with the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite publicizing their disapproval with the Academy’s choices. This hashtag, along with the new hashtag #OscarsStillSoWhite, has been revived after the acting nominees for this year’s Academy Awards were once again all white.

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This ongoing problem continues to spotlight concerns for the lack of diversity in Hollywood.

The 2015 selections caused significant social media and PR backlash for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. After the Twitter outrage following the release of the 2015 Oscar nominees, the Academy’s president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, pledged to increase diversity in 2016’s nominations, but that was not the case.

The past year brought box office hits such as “Creed” and “Straight Outta Compton,” but their lead actors were omitted in the major category nominations. Despite having starring roles in “Concussion” and “Beasts of No Nation,” Will Smith and Idris Elba were also excluded from the list of nominees. Elba was expected to be nominated for an Oscar after he received SAG, BAFTA and Golden Globe award nominations.

In an effort to raise awareness and provoke change, actors and actresses have spoken out against the lack of diversity in the nominee list and the industry. Some actors, actresses, directors and writers have decided to boycott the Oscars this year. Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith, as well as director Spike Lee, made public statements calling for a boycott on Jan. 18, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Jada Pinkett-Smith posted a video to her Facebook page explaining her stance on the issue. She called for social change and suggested pulling resources back from the Academy.

Over the last few years, the Academy has implemented programs to diversify membership and promote inclusion. However, the Academy has seen very little change and is slow to accept the procedures.

After calls for a boycott of the 2016 Oscars, the Academy’s president issued a statement on Monday, Jan. 18, addressing the lack of diversity. Isaacs expressed her frustration and sorrow about the issue, and mentioned that the Academy will be taking drastic measures for change.

Her public acknowledgment and statement about the issue came at a crucial moment for the Academy. Addressing controversy is not always easy, but Isaacs tackled the issue in a timely manner. This response was necessary and critical on her and the Academy’s part.

As well as being president of the Academy, Isaacs also serves as governor of the Public Relations Branch. She is a public relations executive and former head of publicity for Paramount Pictures.

The Oscars is a main source of income for the Academy. Its nonprofit status relies heavily on the broadcast rights and viewer ratings. Lower ratings mean lower income for the business.

The lack of diversity is not strictly confined to the film industry. It is also a concern in public relations and has been long standing and prevalent in our nation.

It’s sad that in 2016 diversity is still a major issue in America. With this perspective in mind, I will be tuning into the 88th Academy Awards to hear Chris Rock’s new monologue, which is sure to include pointed jokes about #OscarsSoWhite.

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