Diversity of the Arts: The Oscars in Question


ABC Television Group

Kaetlyn Dembkoski
  Staff Writer

In times such as these, when diversity needs to be strengthened and prominently visible in society, there is a constant need to fulfill the role to ensure that the matter is not allowed to be undermined.

For many people, the Oscars serve a double purpose; one purpose is to grant people the recognition they deserve for their extraordinary performances and productions from the previous year. The second, perhaps less considered of a purpose, is that of equal awarding for all persons involved.

While this second purpose brings as many of the audience members to watch the Oscars as the first purpose does, it is not hard to see that nominations in the past had been less than favorable to diversity. Unlike the past years, though, this year’s nominations have shown a wide variety of people, giving chances to everyone to be recognized for their feats.

Five years ago, the nominations and the winners for each category of the 2012 Oscars, showed a severe lack of diversity, with very few exceptions.

While the presence of diversity may have been due to the films that were being created that year, along with the people who were casted for each part, does that mean that certain actors and actresses should have been disregarded because they didn’t have a notable enough part?

During the 2012 Academy Awards, one of the nominated actresses, Octavia Spencer, was given a nod for her role in the movie “The Help”, and received not only the award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, but was also given extensive media coverage for her win.

Now in 2017, Spencer is once again nominated for the  Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her work in “Hidden Figures.” However, while in 2012 Spencer was the only woman of color nominated in her category, the 2017 Oscars have a more diverse set of nominees with varying cultural and racial backgrounds.

Now, some of you might be questioning: why does this matter? To that, I ask a question in return: How can we allow all people to perform their roles to the best of their ability and then not give them ample chances to be rewarded adequately?

This can be seen immediately in the fact that in both 2015 and 2016, there were zero non-white Oscar Nominees for Acting. That double zero can be compared with this year’s total of seven people in the nominations included Octavia Spencer, Viola Davis, and Denzel Washington.

In response to the increase of non-white actor nominees, the hashtag #Oscarsnotsowhite, has been rising up on social media to celebrate the fact that there is a spark of diversity returning to the Oscars after the two-year gap.

In the past week, Denzel Washington had an interview with 60 Minutes where he discussed the issues that he had with the lack of diversity within those nominated by the Academy Awards. In said interview, Washington described how it felt to “[be] the guy at the Oscars without my name being called.”

He continued, “I’ve been the guy at the Oscars when my name is called. I’ve been the guy at the Oscars when everybody thought they were going to call my name, and they didn’t.” Despite this notion though, Denzel Washington was still asked what he thought about those who deemed the Academy’s process unfair.

Washington simply responded, “So what? You going to give up? If you’re looking for an excuse, you’ll find one. You can find it wherever you like. Can’t live like that. Just do the best you can do.”

While the Academy and this prestigious award show are dealing with diversity at its most basic level, it is not the only award show being criticized recently. An excellent example of this notion can be found in the recent Grammy Awards.

Adele, who won the award for Album of the Year, refused to accept the award quietly due to the fact that she believed it needed to go to Beyoncé Knowles-Carter instead. Going so far as to break the award in half to prove her point. Adele later spoke about the matter by angrily asking “What the f—k does [Beyoncé] have to do to win Album of the Year?”

Even though these two award shows are meant for two different sides of the arts, the message still rings out the same: the neglect towards diversity is insulting to say the least.

Award shows are meant to grant praise to people for the exceptional work in their fields. By not granting nominations to non-white actors and actresses, an entire faction of people is being disregarded for no good reason. This type of behavior is outrageous. It is reminiscent of trying to remove every non-white actor/ actress from every film and ultimately it is an impossible feat.

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