Pop Culture in Perspective: #OscarsSoWhite sparks controversy

Pop Culture in Perspective: #OscarsSoWhite sparks controversy

Natalia Gevara, Entertainment Editor

Out of all the ceremonies of the extravagant award show season, the Oscars takes the cake as the most significant, as the coveted Academy Award has become the hallmark of a performer’s career since the first ceremony in 1929. But with all this year’s nominees of the acting category being white, it has become apparent to audiences and performers alike that the Academy Awards struggles with equal representation of races.

The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite spawned backlash against the Academy Awards after it was created by attorney and blogger April Reign. Additionally, several celebrities have officially denounced the Oscars for good.

Director Spike Lee announced on Instagram that he will not be attending the award show, calling it “lily white” for having only white contenders in the acting category for the second consecutive year.

Actress Jada Pinkett Smith announced through a Facebook video message that she too would not be attending or watching the Academy Awards this year, stating that “begging for acknowledgement, or even asking, diminishes dignity and diminishes power.”

Mexican-American director Alejandro González Iñárritu stated at the Producers Guild of America’s breakfast panel on January 23 that the film industry should reflect the diversity in the U.S , as “cinema is a mirror by which we often see ourselves.” González Iñárritu is the first Mexican director to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director

In response to the backlash, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaac released a statement on the Academy’s official Twitter page.

“I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion,” Isaac said. “This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes.”

Academy member Arnold Schwartzman, who won the Oscar for 1982’s “Genocide,” stated “We judge films on the merits. There were some great films with white people that didn’t get in that I was upset about. Race had nothing to do with any of it.”

Although #OscarsSoWhite has gone viral since the nomination list was released, the entire movement still has a tendency to be undermined under the notion that there simply were no works or performances by people of color that were “Oscar worthy.” However, such a statement is hardly true.

Some of the works that were considered worthy of an Oscar yet overlooked these past two years include the biopic “Straight Outta Compton,” Idris Elba’s performance in “Beasts of No Nation,” and Will Smith’s performance in the film “Concussion.” Last year, there was backlash over the exclusion of Ava DuVernay, director of “Selma,” and David Oyelowo, who played Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

But what’s the big deal? If people of color are so upset, why don’t they just make their own award show?

People who make these statements fail to realize that the Academy Awards reigns as the most prestigious ceremony in Hollywood. With an increase in pay to those who receive an Oscar, limiting the award to white people only creates a wage gap among races and limits the opportunities of people of color, as their works are considered less notable.

The problem also lies in the fact that members of the Academy, who vote on the nominees, also fail to represent Hollywood’s diverse population. Among the 6028 voting members, 94 percent of them are white, 77 percent are men and 86 percent are over the age of 50.

The fact is that the Academy Awards is deficient when it comes to diversity. In an industry where the most successful film of the year, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” is led by a black man, it’s perplexing that not a single person of color has been nominated in an acting category for the past two years.

Equal representation in Hollywood is important, as the industry broadcasts to massive audiences of all genders and colors. With such a diverse audience watching these films, failing to represent them leads to unequal opportunities for minorities aspiring to make a career in film.

With 88 years of the Academy of Awards, it’s disappointing that there is still a troubling issue with diversity. Hopefully, 2016 will be the last year where deserving people of color are overlooked for an Oscar.