FOR THE QC
Four to one. This is the ratio of white to African-American nominees in the 89th Academy Awards categories of Best Actor/Actress in a Leading Role. This is astonishing compared to the all-white nominees from the 88th Academy Awards in 2015, totaling 20 in the Best Actor/Actress and Best Supporting Actor/Actress categories.
According to The Atlantic, 94 percent of the 6,028 Academy Awards voters are white, and 76 percent of them are males averaging63 years old. This has sparked backlash amongst film and Hollywood fanatics; last year’s most trending hashtag on Twitter was #OscarsSoWhite.
The demographics of Best Actor/Actress in a Supporting Role are only slightly more diverse: two of the five nominated actors are People of Color (POC), and three of the five nominated actresses are African-American. It seems as if the previous lack of POC nominees in the supportive category can be attributed to that same absence of opportunity. Four of the nine nominations for Best Picture feature POC in leading roles, compared to the surprising count of zero from last year’s Academy Awards.
A majority of the films gaining critical acclaim in recent years are centered around non-POC: La La Land (2016), Hacksaw Ridge (2016), Mad Max (2015), and The Big Short (2015). It is obvious that there are more opportunities for non-POC actors and storylines in Hollywood than there are for POC actors, which presents a simple solution to a simple problem: casting directors and scriptwriters must open up the floor to a more diverse standard of casting.
Though it is slow-growing, diversity must extend its inclusion to more than one ethnicity. For example, the popular television show Jane the Virgin features a Latino family as the leads, with episodes featuring a portion of the dialogue in Spanish and centering on Hispanic/Latinx culture. Other shows featuring diverse families include The Fosters, in which a bi-racial lesbian couple raises a family of foster children that includes Latinx twins; Orange is the New Black, whichdraws on African-American, Latinx, and Asian cultures; and ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat, which follows a Taiwanese family’s journey navigating life in suburban Orlando.
It is my hope that, one day, the diversity of television reaches the big screens. As a non-black POC, I find myself shaking my head in disdain whenever I sit down for previews before a movie and see that all the upcoming films feature white families, white men, and white women. The various casts of some of my favorite films fail to include POC. This is unfortunate, since film can easily be a very conducive emotional outlet.