It’s telling that the Oscars, the system Hollywood has devised to honor their own has, for the second year in a row, thrown diversity completely out the window. What does it say about your system, Hollywood, when the only person of color on your award stage is the host?
While last year’s films didn’t venture too far outside of the white, heteronormative pantheon, there were several films, writers, and actors/actresses whose absence from the Academy Awards ballot can only feel like a snub. But peering a little deeper into the nominee lists, it’s hard not to see the snub as deliberate.
In the its nearly 90 year history, the Academy has only award 14 Oscars to black actors. And two of those awards were for playing slaves.
Straight Outta Compton, the both critically and popularly lauded story of the rap group NWA, featured a black director and a black leading cast. It’s only nomination, though, was to the all-white writing team for Best Screenplay.
The only nomination for Creed, featuring a black writer/director and amazing performances from Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson, was given to Sylvester Stallone.
What about Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Will Smith in Concussion, or Abraham Attah and Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation?
Tangerine, a story about trans sex workers of color, broke the Hollywood mold in so many ways, not the least of which including the casting of trans women Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor in the starring roles. Instead, Eddie Redmayne, a straight, white male, was given a Best Actor nomination for playing a trans woman in The Danish Girl.
While both Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara received acting nominations for Carol, and writer Phyllis Nagy picked up a Best Screenplay nomination, there was no such luck when it came to Best Director or Best Picture nods for openly gay director Todd Haynes.
What about Lily Tomlin in Grandma, or Julianne Moore and Ellen Page in Freeheld? What about openly gay director Andrew Haigh from 45 years?
Despite naming Cheryl Boone Isaacs, a black, female marketing executive, as its President, the Academy clearly has a long way to go towards recognizing the cinematic efforts of people who aren’t straight, white men. With a voting membership that’s 94% white and 77% male, though, it would be surprising to see any sort of needed change any time soon.