Oscars still so white?

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I am unashamedly about to make a gross generalisation. It seems most people are so blind to a lack of diversity and representation that many will argue this is an issue which does not exist. They forthrightly proclaim that individuals from minority communities simply need to work harder, that they need to integrate more with ‘us’, and racism is just an example of crying wolf. If one holds this view, institutionalised racism and discrimination are not powerful external entities, but a mindset you can just shrug off.

It’s an easy position to wallow in; for years I thought it was normal that positions of power were dictated by gender and ethnicity. However, this is not a self-righteous piece on my glorious path to uncovering discrimination. It is a discovery not to be proud of as, after all, people are rarely praised for understanding the obvious.


White people have dominated every space in society for a long period of time

So where is this supposedly blatant lack of diversity? Ironically, all you need are visuals. Firstly, we must accept that white people have dominated every space in society for a long period of time. At Durham University, one can look at any Freshers Matriculation photo and count on one hand how many non-white backgrounds there are. In the dining hall of Castle College, one finds themselves surrounded by the painted portraits of only white men and not a single woman.

In other news, I would like to announce that I am in no way attacking white men. I know you recently gave up your Gillette razors, so I do not want you to boycott this newspaper as well. That would indeed be a draining week.

The reason for my ramblings stem from the recent Oscar nominations; an institution that never fails to fall under the progressive eye. In 2015, not a single actor from a non-white background was nominated for either Best Actor, Best Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, or Best Director.

One must ask how far has the film industry come along?

That year created the contentious hashtag #OscarsSoWhite and caused the public eye to seriously assess the racist reality in which we inhabit. Like any other socially fashionable trend that thrives online, the storm on the front lines died down and life went on. Fast forward to now, one must ask how far has the film industry come along?

It is easy to measure diversity through numbers, and many will argue that the diversity you do see is there for the sake of being inclusive. There is no real change. Again, this is not an attack on white society or men but rather a calling to producers and studios to include different stories that represent the world we live in rather than just including actors of different races.

So far there have been steps to change this, but progress has been short. It is not about replacing brilliant white actors with mediocre non-white actors but moving towards art which reflects the whole of society and not just one part of it.


“White people are so used to seeing a reflection of themselves in all representations of humanity at all times, that they only notice it when it’s taken away from them”

In Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, Renni Eddo-Lodge puts it almost perfectly: “White people are so used to seeing a reflection of themselves in all representations of humanity at all times, that they only notice it when it’s taken away from them”. I think this speaks volumes and should cause anyone to rethink diversity in not just movies, but in every aspect of society.

Furthermore, women are still heavily absent from certain categories. A woman has only been nominated five times out of 91 years of the Oscars for Best Director. This is shameful. Additionally, only six black directors have ever been nominated for Best Director. This staggering reality has been lying beneath our eyes for so long that it almost draws me to the conclusion that we have facilitated a culture which regards minorities and women as simply not worthy enough. We need to do more.

Photo: 22860 via Flickr

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