Now that Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences president Cheryl Boone Isaacs has promised “big changes” to bring more diversity to the group that dispenses the Oscars, many Academy members have told TheWrap they applaud her comments.
But not everyone believes Boone Isaacs has the power to make a real difference.
“She is fighting an uphill battle,” April Reign, creator of the Twitter hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, told TheWrap. “She is one person and she may be battling against an Academy that we know is 94 percent white, that is over 70 percent male and has an average age of 63.”
Reign was referring to a 2012 study conducted by the Los Angeles Times that pointed out the acute lack of diversity among Oscar voters. Reign, a former attorney and current managing editor of BroadwayBlack.com, said she started using the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite to express her dismay with the Academy’s status quo.
“The hashtag of #OscarsSoWhite was borne out of my disappointment and frustration with the lack of inclusion in the nominees for the 2015 Oscars and unfortunately, the hashtag has seen a resurgence this year,” she explained.
After last year’s Oscars diversity backlash, Boone Isaacs invited 322 new members to join the Academy, including “Selma” star David Oyelowo, “Ride Along” actor Kevin Hart, “Slumdog Millionaire” actor Dev Patel and “The Best Man Holiday” director Malcolm D. Lee.
But as Reign and countless others have pointed out, the problem goes much deeper than the Academy’s 6,261 voting members.
“It’s not just an issue with the Academy itself, but the lack of quality roles for people of color, for people from the LGBTQ community, for indigenous people, for differently-abled people and so on,” Reign said.
“The concern is that when studios greenlight films, that they are not thinking outside of their own comfort zone, not only with respect to who we see on the screen… but also behind the film — directors, screenwriters and cinematographers of color also being given the opportunity to tell these stories,” Reign said.
Over the past few days, Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith, Don Cheadle, “Straight Outta Compton” producer Will Packer, actress Whoopi Goldberg and director Michael Moore have all expressed concerns about the lack of diversity among this year’s acting nominees.
In Reign’s opinion, the growing list of Hollywood insiders joining the discussion is proof that the movie industry must change.
“It’s a concern that doesn’t just affect black people, but affects everyone because we all should want to see diversity and inclusion and stories that make us think, stories that make us laugh and feel, and those are not particular to a specific race,” she said.
Reign suggested that the lack of diversity starts with studio heads, who are overwhelmingly Caucasian and male.
“Great movies like ‘The Martian,’ in which Matt Damon did a great job, we question whether Jamie Foxx could have played that role, or Javier Bardem or any number of other actors in the same role,” she said.
Despite her concerns, Reign insists she’s not giving up on Hollywood, just on this year’s Oscars telecast: “I didn’t watch last year and I won’t be watching this year. There’s no reason for me to watch.”