Carstens: #OscarsNOTsowhite

Courtney Carstens

And the nominees for Best Picture are…all white? The nominees for best Actor in a Leading Role are…all white? The nominees for best Actor in a Supporting Role are…all white?

Since the #Oscarssowhite trend exploded with popularity on social media sites like Twitter and Instagram, some of Hollywood’s most successful directors, actors and actresses like Spike Lee, George Clooney, Mark Ruffalo, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith started officially boycotting the Oscars.

Their individual reasons may differ, but overall these Hollywood greats believe that boycotting this prestigious award show will send a message to members of the academy about how the industry needs to be more diverse. But perhaps this boycott is not entirely warranted.

‘Straight Outta Compton’, which features main characters of color, has not been nominated for an award, and the producer of the film believes that these movies are not being nominated due to discrimination.

However this dispute begs the question – how can they know that? Is it so hard to believe that movies starring individuals from diverse backgrounds did not make the cut for a nomination because it did not fit the criteria that those who voted on the winners were looking for?

Another major critique that has been made of the academy is that those who vote for nominees have a white male majority. According to LA Times, Oscar voters are 94 percent Caucasian and 77 percent male. African Americans make up about 2 percent of the academy, and Latinos are less than 2 percent. Oscar voters have an average age of 62. Those members younger than 50 constitute only 14 percent of the membership.

Many could argue that this is why those who snag a nomination are predominantly white. However, it is hard to picture that when inspirational, widely known supporters of diversity like Tom Hanks, Sidney Poitier, Meryl Streep and Steven Spielberg among Hollywood’s most influential members. Hollywood giants have been openly pushing for diversity so an argument of malicious action is questionable.

I believe it is not due to race that those who get nominated are primarily white. It is because the process in order to get to vote for the Oscar Nominees is so intricate.

The negativity surrounding this all-white nomination has been controversial during the 2015-2016 award season, however a primarily white nomination cannot be blamed on those who are in charge of or who vote for the Oscars. The population of minority actors and actresses cast in major films is extremely low, so in return the nominations wiforth people of color have to be low as well.

According to the CIA World Factbook, the United States population is made up of 79.96 percent of caucasians, 12.85 percent of Black or African Americans and less than five percent for other ethnicities. It is not fair to assume then that those who are voting for the Oscar nominees are being racist or that Hollywood in general still has some lingering racial problems when the majority choice for casting is caucasians.  

Those who are in charge of casting do not have a large pool of ethnically diverse people to choose from so we can not expect them to just pick someone of color just for the sake of being diverse. When the people who are in charge of casting figure out nominees they have to choose the people who they believe are going to do the best job.

The same goes for the people who decide who the nominees will be, they are voting for the best nominee whether it be Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role or Best Actor in a Supporting Role, the voters are looking for the characteristics that make the movie, actor or actress suitable for a nomination. This does not include race or sexual orientation.

This is yet another example of the media and our society allowing things to be blown out of proportion. While it would be nice to see different actors and actresses of color get a nomination because some of them really do deserve recognition, it is ultimately out of our hands and trying to make a bigger deal out of the lack of diversity of  nominations is essentially bullying those who are just trying to do their job.

Why as a nation must we always think the worst? Why is it assumed that the reason someone or something does not win is because of race or sexual orientation? Can it be said that not everyone is out to get those who are not white heterosexuals? We need to believe that what is being done is not hinged on race or sexual orientation. We are in the 21st century and while racism and bigotry still exist, most of the time that is not the case. Stop the #Oscarssowhite, we need to be together as one and not as a nation that picks each other apart because of race or another indicators of difference.