#OscarsSoDiverse. I saw this the other day, on Facebook, accompanying some article about how the Academy is redeeming itself by having such a diverse pool in their 2017 nominations. Before even reading the article, this troubled me. Now, before you click the back button on your browser, I wasn’t troubled by the fact that the Oscars were “diverse” this year. The only issue I had was the use of the word “redeeming.” “Redeeming” implies that the Academy went out of their way to make the Oscars diverse. The truth is, if the Academy simply nominates the most deserving movies, there’s nothing “redeeming” about it – it just means they didn’t mess up this time. Of course, I understand this article was not trying to say these movies were undeserving. However, I also believe people have been way too forgiving of the Academy and Hollywood in general.
This Oscar season, of the 9 movies nominated, 4 have a relatively diverse cast and of the 20 acting nominations, 7 of them are people of color (compared to 0 last year). This is certainly a step up from 2016, but in reality, it’s actually still far away from #OscarsSoDiverse. When looking deeper into the nominations, the diversity isn’t so great. This is especially noticeable when reviewing the Best Director nods. Of all the awards, Best Director usually correlates with Best Picture and the movies most likely to win the latter category almost always get a nod in the former (sorry Ben Affleck). In this year’s race, of the five people nominated for Best Director, only one is a person of color and has made a movie about people of color (Barry Jenkins of Moonlight).
What makes this even stranger is that a white male hasn’t won Best Director since 2012 (Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist). Yet, in what many people have seen as one of the most diverse years in recent Oscar history, the nominees for arguably the most important person on set are oddly, and overwhelmingly, homogenous.
I’ll be the first to admit that this might just be a strange coincidence. However, this is admittedly hard to believe when only 5 of the 9 nominees for Best Picture are centered around a nonethnic protagonist. Even stranger is that of the 9 films nominated, only 2 of them were actually directed by people of color (Fences by Denzel Washington and Moonlight).
I’m really not arguing that Oscars 2017 isn’t a big step in the right direction, especially after #OscarsSoWhite. However, to proclaim 2017 as the year of the Academy’s redemption is a bit of a stretch. And with a lack of well-rounded racial and gender diversity in Hollywood and the Academy Awards, #OscarsSoDiverse is still a bit of a misnomer.