So it’s that time of year again…award season is upon us. The red carpet is being rolled out in Hollywood. But this year is a little different (or maybe not so different?). The controversy over the lack of diversity among the Oscar nominees has put a cloud over the ceremony. Especially with the #OscarsSoWhite rampant on Twitter it doesn’t take Tom Hanks telling us “Houston we have a problem,”(yes, I couldn’t resist the Apollo 13 reference) to let us know that there is something seriously wrong going on here.
Even some high profile stars are boycotting the Oscars, with Jada Pinkett Smith being one of the most prominent ones.
Many people are bemoaning this outcry by saying that people of color should be patient, as Michael Caine recently mentioned. That’s like Lyndon Baines Johnson telling Dr. King to be patient for the Voting Rights Act.
Going beyond the Oscars there is a real problem with diversity in our entertainment arena. In a recent study conducted by USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, they found that out of 109 motion pictures evaluated only 7% had a racially balanced cast. The study also found that at least half or more of all media evaluated (film, television, streaming) failed to portray one speaking or named Asian or Asian American on screen. Of the lead characters in film, only 21.8% were an underrepresented minority, which is 16.1% below the U.S. Census number.
Behind the camera things weren’t much better. Only 12.7% of film directors were from an underrepresented minority group, and out of that they named just two Black women: Ava DuVernay (Selma) and Amma Asante (Belle)—who happens to be Ghanaian.
The major studios overall did not fair much better. No studio scored an inclusion score above 25% across all metrics. Only Sony and Viacom achieved a Fully Inclusive score for underrepresented minority characters and leads. The authors of the study credit films like About Last Night, Selma and Top Five for helping to bolster their respective scores.
The authors suggest ways to remedy this including: targeted inclusion goals, countering mythologizing in decision making with evidence (i.e. thought that minority leads can’t do well at the box office), and building inclusive consideration lists.
I think some people are afraid and think that others are taking their piece of the pie. No. It’s not about taking a piece of someone’s pie, it’s about making the pie bigger.
Your thoughts are welcome.