As I stated in a previous post, the annual complaints about the Oscars lacking diversity is getting old. Everyone is blaming The Academy; however, what people fail to realize is that the Oscars is simply a summation of the films that were presented throughout the year. Academy voters can only vote on films that were greenlit by studios and that made it into theaters the previous year (films that were in theaters in 2015 are the films that the Academy members vote on for 2016 Oscars). The diversity problem in Hollywood begins long before the Oscars.
Change within the film community has to come from the top where decisions are made, and the mentalities of people who make films has to change. The studios, financiers, and distributors are the major pipelines that are responsible for making the decisions about the films that are financed and inevitably reach mainstream audiences. It’s very easy to resonate with projects that have leading protagonists and stories that are similar to our own backgrounds, and if there is a lack of diversity in this pipeline then that is exactly what the final product (films) will mirror.
“The root of the problem is that the studios are simply not greenlighting films that are led by minority performers to a significant degree that it actually reflects this country and its make-up and that has to change.”
Despite what is happening in the film community, television seems to be making great strides in terms of diversity. In the world of network television, it is very rare to see shows such as Full House, Seinfeld, Friends, etc. when white actors dominated the screen. Thanks to prominent showrunners such as Shonda Rhimes, Kenya Barris, and Lee Daniels, today we can go from Blackish to Empire to the entire Shondaland programming slate and see the diversity of the world accurately portrayed on the small screen. Even major digital platforms have embraced diversity, and understand that diversity is equivalent to high ratings.
“You look at a cast of an ensemble TV show, they just can’t get away with white, white, white anymore. I think what television really understands is that diversity is vitally important.” – Melissa Silverstein, writer and founder of Women and Hollywood
The lack of diversity in films is a major topic right now primarily because of what is going on with the Oscars this year. The amount of press and publicity being generated due to the lack of diversity in Hollywood, should be a conversation that we continue to have at this rate ALL year because it is a problem and has been a problem for decades. Celebrities coming to the forefront to discuss issues in Hollywood once a year (during the Oscars) as if this is a new revelation is simply not enough to ignite change. What happens when the Oscars are over? Who will continue to speak on this issue and be there to implement change within the system? Who will be there to generate more opportunities for people of color in the executive seats so that they can become decision makers? How does boycotting the Oscars affect change within the studio system?
“You can walk across the campuses of all the studios and never really see anyone of color and it’s something that the industry needs to correct. Film is a reflection of the world we live in but when you walk across a studio lot, you don’t see a reflection of the world, and this is where the issue begins.” – Stephen Galloway
#OscarsSoWhite isn’t isn’t about the show. It’s about the business. It’s well overdue that Hollywood acknowledged this, and did something about it.