After the Golden Globes and BAFTA nominations will the Oscars be so white?

January 12, 2018

Ever since April Reign created the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag in 2016, the focus on diversity in film has become ever more prevalent. And, for a time, it seemed the film industry was making positive steps to create more engaging and leading roles for people of colour. Terminator 2: Sarah Connor isn’t the feminist icon James Cameron thinks she is… but she could be From an all-white acting line-up at the 2016 Academy Awards to a diverse mix of stars a year later – including wins for Mahershala Ali, Viola Davis and Moonlight – it looks like, sadly, we’re heading back to the drawing board this year. For the last few months, we’ve been seeing respected entertainment publications do their actors’ roundtables – a series of  interviews bringing together male and female performers likely to be recognised this awards season – and in most cases they’ve been filled with white faces and one or no persons of colour. The LA Times cover featuring Jessica Chastain, Margot Robbie, Annette Bening, Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan and Diane Kruger was particularly troubling as it was an all-white line-up. Chastain was singled out for her involvement in the shoot; perceived to be hypocritical because of her consistent championing of intersectional representation. ‘Honestly @jes_chastain as an outspoken voice for equality how do you pose for a photo like this and not feel absolutely mortified by the blatant exclusion? How is it possible to not understand the msg this photo sends?’ tweeted journalist Rebecca Carroll. Chastain was fully aware of the optics and chastised the industry for not doing more to ensure women of colour were being given the opportunity to lead films. ‘Its [sic] a sad look that there’s no WOC in this pic of us promoting our female lead films. The industry needs to become more inclusive in its storytelling,’ she tweeted, adding. ‘Its [sic] TERRIBLE that I can’t think of at least five lead films with woc this year!’ The onus shouldn’t be put on Jessica Chastain. Rather, it should be the industry she calls out for continuing to treat diversity as tokenism rather than a vital component to the storytelling of our collective lives. An industry that seems to implement a strict quota on the amount of black and ethnic minority stories they are willing to tell, and celebrate, where as white narratives are limitless. It’s also an industry that thinks when it comes to awards season, diverse films like Get Out, The Big Sick or Call Me By Your Name, no matter how critically or commercially acclaimed they are, only get a shot every so often. In a recent discussion on Twitter, New York-based journalist Mark Harris revealed some of the troubling conversations he’d had with Academy members. ‘Talking to Oscar voters and the two worst things I’m hearing right now are, “I liked Get Out, but…come on” and “I liked Call Me By Your Name, but we did that last year.” And if they’re saying that to ME, they’re saying it,’ he tweeted. He’s not alone in hearing this type of chatter as we get closer to the February ceremony; even though the Academy of Motion Picture and Science put in measures to improve the diversity of their membership, it is still predominantly white and male. In 2012, the Los Angeles Times reported that the 6,000 strong group of film professionals was 94% white, 77% male and only 14% under the age of 50. Since then, the Academy has changed the rules for membership so that those who have not contributed to film for 10 years will lose their voting privileges to ensure there isn’t an age bias. Academy president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, also promised to double the number of women and ethnic minorities by 2020 as well as increase the number of new members it invites to join each year.


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