As I’m sure you know, the Oscars for 2016 have been a trending topic since the nominees were announced this month. The topic at large can be described by a trending hashtag on twitter, #OscarsSoWhite. The lack of diversity this year has not gone unnoticed by anyone. Since I’m sure you aware of the issue, I want to focus on what I personally feel is the much larger problem; the lack of a just representation.
Plenty of celebrities have voiced their opinion, but the one that resonated with me most was Viola Davis’s recognition of what she too considers to be the causing the lack of diversity nominees. She addresses that the academy’s #OscarSoWhite problem goes deeper than just this particular awards show.
“The problem is not with the Oscars — the problem is with the Hollywood movie-making system,” Davis said. “The films that are being made, are the big-time producers thinking outside of the box in terms of how to cast the role?” she continued. “Can you cast a black woman in that role? Can you cast a black man in that role?”
USC Annenberg’s Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative released a report last August demonstrating how brutally non-diverse Hollywood really is.
I highly recommend scanning the full Annenberg “Inequality in 700 Popular Films:Examining Portrayals of Gender, Race, & LGBT Status from 2007 to 2014,” report, I’m certain your jaw will drop as far as mine did. There’s almost as much White representation in films as there is water on Earth. The numbers haven’t changes since 2007? What? What do we do? How can we change that? Star Wars: The Force Awakens took the step I’m hoping the rest of Hollywood will take in the coming years.
This is what Viola Davis would be applauding. We have Star Wars, a franchise so large, so recognized, casting a lead black male actor. Not just casting, a black male actor wanting it. I could get all hot and bothered that those responsible voting for the nominees for the Oscars might not be picking diverse candidates; but their options are unfortunately limited, because of the lack of diverse representation in movies in general. You saw those statistics, it is really that alarming that the Oscars don’t have minorities nominated? Frustrating, disappointing, yes, but alarming…unfortunately not.
From the top of my head, I can’t name more than 10 Latino or Hispanic actors that starred in supporting roles this past year; much more or less leading roles. Who I am supposed to blame for that? Hollywood’s movie making system? Public Relations? The directors for not envisioning their movies with a colored lead actors? Or the lack of Latino and Hispanic actors in the Hollywood business and in Public Relations in general?
The answer is just as you would expect, it’s a little bit of both. If we want to see more diversity in award shows, we have to have people to actually nominate. I think I am extremely invested in this issue because I recognized I was almost to blame for the lack of bringing in a diverse cast of characters in my own book. It wasn’t until I took the journalism course “Race, Gender and the Media” two semester’s ago that I realized for the entire process of imagining and writing my book since I started college, that I had envisioned my characters as white. My professor quickly got rid of most of the guilt I felt because she explained I wasn’t entirely to blame; I had been subconsciously writing a white cast because that is what I know society expects, what I have grown up watching and reading my entire life, even as a Hispanic Mexican American Citizen. Since then, I changed the entire setting of my novel. I recognized the need of Hispanic and Latino representation in the media, I want to be a part of bringing diversity to young readers. We need to have more movies not just starring minorities, but about minorities. We haven’t forgotten the unforgettable Oscar Winning Film 12 Years a Slave, right? Or Selma? The Help? The Book of Life was one of the first movies in a long time I was so excited to watch with my mother, because we could watch it in Spanish and it was about her culture.
The Oscars I anticipate for the future will be when our generations, our minorities, start taking over. Taking over Hollywood, getting those Public Relation’s jobs, becoming award show critiques and voters, becoming actors and actresses, it’s the same vision I have for our government. It’s going to take time, but the conversations we’re having today is the first step to bring forth the change we need; the need for diverse representation everywhere. The Oscars are getting on board with the program by limiting voting rights, adding new governor seats and reconstructing committees. The Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted on this, there was actual historical change this year; a step towards the future I know we all want. I can’t wait for the statistics in the media to finally convey reality, the reality that we know today.