Oscar nominations came out on Tuesday and the immediate reaction was “Wow, the Academy is really trying to make a point. I guess #OscarsSoWhite is over now.” After last year when almost every nominee was white, the diverse races and backgrounds of those nominated in 2017 shows a stark difference. But this notion that now the Oscars have solved the racial disparity problem in films is silly for a few reasons.
- I agreed with the outrage that manifested #OscarsSoWhite last year, but I think it was misdirected. The Oscars are the finish line. Hollywood needs to embrace diversity even before pre-production. Studios and producers and casting directors need to be pioneers in this. Until that happens and we see real money being thrown behind stories like Moonlight and directors like Barry Jenkins and Ava DuVernay there will be plenty more seasons of #OscarsSoWhite in our future.
- Most films take a long time to get from being green-lit to actually ending up at your local theater. Depending on the size of the film it can easily take upwards of two years for a film to finally be released. So, it’s likely that films like Moonlight, Fences, Hidden Figures, Loving, 13th and I Am Not Your Negro were already deep into the filmmaking process when #OscarsSoWhite started trending last year.
- A lot of the headlines I read on Tuesday and Wednesday seemed to imply that the only reason this year’s group of nominees looked so different from 2016 was because of the public relations nightmare that #OscarsSoWhite created for the Academy. I’ve said more than once that 2016 wasn’t a great year for films, but there are some exceptional people nominated for really exceptional things. Their talent got them the nomination, not a hashtag from last year.
I don’t mean to have a negative attitude about these Oscar nominates. No matter how it happened, it is an absolute delight to see a more racially diverse set of nominees, particularly in the acting categories. I just wouldn’t want anyone to get too comfortable or complacent. Hollywood still has a long way to go and we should continue to hold the industry accountable for embracing people of different races, sizes, genders and abilities. I look forward to the day when the lack of racial and gender diversity in Hollywood isn’t a topic worthy of a headline.