By: Henry Eden ~Staff Writer~
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced on Friday a series of changes and voting restrictions designed to increase both racial and gender diversity within its membership and governing board.
These new rules come as a result of the enormous backlash the academy faced from fans and members alike when it was announced that for the second year in a row not a single actor of any racial minority was nominated for an Oscar. Soon after the nominees were announced, the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite became a catalyst for a social media uprising. Under the hashtag, people across the world posted opinions and shared articles calling into question the diversity of the Academy’s membership, the fairness of their voting and the entire makeup of their leadership. The unrest surrounding the nominations was not limited to fans of film.
Powerful and well-known working members in the industry like Spike Lee, Will Smith, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Don Cheadle have all voiced their displeasure at the Academy’s lopsidedness. They announced that they will not be attending this year’s ceremony in an act of protest.
After this year’s Oscars, each academy member is able to vote for 10 years, upon which they will gain renewal if they have been active in film within the last decade. Additionally, a member who is no longer active in the industry will remain a member with emeritus status, whereupon they are no longer able to vote. Three new governing seats have been established, presumably to allow new minority leadership to begin right away.
“The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up. These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition,” Cherly Boone Isaacs, Academy president, said.
These changes have made it clear that the Academy has recognized the need for growth and wants to fast-track their need for diversity. Of the 6000 eligible voting members of the Academy, 94 percent are white people and 77 percent are.
It is important to note, however, that the Academy is made up of people who have done significant work within the industry. Diversity issues at the Oscars may be a hot topic, but a general one-sidedness throughout Hollywood and the film industry still stands as a greater issue that will not be easily changed.