America is not the same ever since the Black Lives Matter movement and the murder of George Floyd. It forced every single industry and institution of the United States to look at how systemic racism is. Hollywood was no different. Therefore, The Academy announced back in June that they’ll be making some changes to the Oscar Awards to address racism. Now, the changes The Academy made to the Oscars have finally arrived, which we covered a couple of days ago. But, will they be able to increase diversity in Hollywood? Let’s take a look.
As mentioned in our previous piece, The Academy introduced four separate standards for filmmakers to follow. You have to fulfill each standard to be eligible for a nomination for the best picture at the Oscars. We’ll look at how each standard could make the industry more inclusive and enhance diversity. Moreover, could they end up hurting the creativity that Hollywood writers and producers enjoy? We’ll try our best to answer these questions.
Analysis of the standards introduced by the Academy for the Oscars
Now, in order to pass standard A, films have to fulfill at least one of three set criteria. The movie should have one lead character or 30% of the ensemble cast from the following groups to be eligible for the Oscars. The underrepresented groups are:
- Racial or ethnic group
- People with cognitive or physical disabilities, or who are deaf or hard of hearing
If it does not fulfill any one of these criteria, the film’s story should at least focus on them to qualify for the Oscars. But, will this standard be able to increase diversity in Hollywood?
You have to understand that at its heart, these standards are an employment restriction, not a creative one. By making it mandatory Hollywood to cast people from these underrepresented groups, it will create more opportunities for actors belonging to these groups. And the only way to not be able to fulfill any of these criteria is if you have a cast of only straight white men. That should not be happening in 2020. In fact, it doesn’t happen in most of the films we watch today. But, by putting it as a restriction to be eligible for an Oscar Award, The Academy has now forced every single movie tier in Hollywood to make their cast more diverse.
The Academy addressed representation in creative leaderships and overall crew composition with this standard. It requires the movie to have representation from the underrepresented groups mentioned above to be eligible for the Oscars. What this standard does is that it increases the diversity not just on camera, but on set and in decision making places of the production team as well. When there is diversity in positions of power and in the overall crew, then it reduces the chances of casual racism on set. Therefore, this change in the Oscars will also prove fruitful for greater representation of underrepresented groups and diversity.
This standard by The Academy focuses on paid apprenticeship, internship and training opportunities, and skill development. It ensures that the same underrepresented groups are given these opportunities on set as well. This prevents racial gatekeeping in the film industry, which essentially keeps artists and keen aspirants from diverse backgrounds to enter the industry. By doing so, a ton of opportunities will begin appearing for them. This means that changes will begin taking place at a grassroots level. There are a lot of talented and hungry artists who are deprived of an opportunity because of their gender, sexuality, race, or disability. This could begin to spell an end for that barrier.
With this standard, The Academy addresses Representation in marketing, publicity, and distribution teams. It ensures that underrepresented groups have adequate representation in these departments that eventually help in the audience making of a film. By doing so, The Academy ensures that the movie will be able to attract audiences of a diverse nature. When these groups have a say in how a film is marketed, they know the elements necessary to make it attractive to the underrepresented groups as well. Many films in Hollywood are marketed for just straight white men. It’s about time that changes, and a more diverse audience is made the center of attention for these films. And there’s no better way to do that than making changes to the criteria of eligibility for an Oscar nomination.
These are the new standards introduced by The Academy for a film to be eligible for the Oscars. Some people were complaining that these standards would restrict the creativity of writers. That is simply not true!
After looking at these standards, these Oscars’ changes are more of an employment restriction. They force creators to be more diverse in their casting and hiring in each and every aspect of a movie. That in no way should hamper their creativity. In this day and age, if a movie has no women or people of color or a disabled person or an LGBTQ+ character, then that is an indication of systemic racism and discrimination.
In a way, these Oscars’ changes are still not enough to end the lack of diversity in Hollywood. There needs to be greater accountability too for studios who are not able to get rid of racism and sexism on set. And many multi-billion dollar studios still have this epidemic. A great proof of that is John Boyega’s recent comments about the racism he faced while working at Disney, and with how former employees accused The Ellen DeGeneres Show of having toxic workplace culture, riddled with sexism and racism. More needs to be done!