HEY, THAT STATUE ISN’T WHITE!
I’ve noticed a lot of bellyaching the last couple of years about how old, white, and male the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are. These are the people who vote for the Oscars.
Want to know how you get to become a member of the Academy? You get nominated for an Academy Award.
Which means there’s no hope, right? Old white guys are going to nominate old white guys.
Except that they’re not.
In 1939, Hattie McDaniel was nominated for Best Supporting Actress. If you ever saw Gone With The Wind, you probably noticed that Hattie McDaniel was not old, white, or a guy. She was young, black, and –– well, obviously –– female.
She also won.
That was 77 years ago and since then, at least 148 African Americans have been nominated for major Academy Awards. I didn’t bother to do a search for Hispanic, Asian, or female nominees because I’m lazy. But if I didn’t make my point, what’s Alejandro Iñárritu‘s heritage again? How about Alfonso Cuarón‘s?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not an apologist for the Academy. They’ve lauded some pretty stinky work, in my humble opinion. But it’s equal-opportunity stinky, as far as I can tell.
And while I’m sure there could be plenty more diversity in the ranks of its membership, remember back up there when I talked about how you get to be a member? Every single not-white, not-old, and not-male person that gets nominated for an Academy Award becomes eligible to nominate the next year’s contenders. Who then become members. And get to nominate.
Seventy-seven years of that and I’m going to bet the Academy is more diverse now than ever.
Here’s the bottom line: Anybody in a legitimate position to aspire to an Academy Award has already achieved a substantial measure of fame and wealth. And if it turns out that someone who’s already rich and famous doesn’t end up with a statue because a bunch of rich, famous, old white guys want to give each other awards, it’s hard for me to summon tears.
But it seems pretty clear to me that they don’t.