Oscars 2021: the ceremony breaks diversity records

Pinned recently for its lack of heterogeneity, the Academy has reformed in depth and this year offers a cutting edge selection in terms of inclusion.

Actors of color over-represented among the nominees, women and filmmakers of Asian origin competing for the best director award… This year, the Oscars are breaking diversity records. The result of real change, and not of mere fluke due to the pandemic.

One of the factors in this shift was undoubtedly the reform initiated by the Academy. The institution behind the prestigious film award has worked to broaden the recruitment of its members and make them more reflective of society.

“I think these Oscars will be remembered as the ones where the changes introduced six years ago, in the wake of #OscarsSoWhite, kept their promises.”, rejoices black American actor Dwayne Barnes (Threat II Society), in an editorial on the specialized site Deadline .

The late Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Blues), Daniel Kaluuya (Judas & The Black Messiah) and South Korean Yuh-Jung Youn (Minari) all have a good chance of winning Sunday among the actors. As for Chloé Zhao, born in China, she is favorite for the Oscar for best director with Nomadland.

An overhaul of the members of the Academy

The #OscarsSoWhite campaign was launched in January 2015 on social networks to denounce the overwhelming majority of white candidates rewarded that year by an Academy mainly made up of elderly Anglo-Saxon men.

Under pressure, the Academy had indeed recognized in 2016 that its 6,000 members at the time were 93% white and 76% male, with a median age of 63 years. She announced in the wake of a doubling of women and members of ethnic minorities by 2020 to breathe new blood into its workforce.

The bet was made last summer, and professionals voting for the Oscars now number around 33% women and 19% members from “under-represented minorities»(1787 in total). “It took a few years for it to take, but there is every reason to hope that this change (…) is not a hazard”, writes Dwayne Barnes, noting “Made it to countless auditions with the impression that the dice were loaded”.

The “perfect combination

After #OscarsSoWhite followed movements demanding the recognition of women in all film professions, in front of and behind the camera, driven by the revelations of the Weinstein affair.

“It all really rocked the coconut palm. And this year for the first time, because the Covid-19 pushed back the schedule of big productions, it left the field open to other films ”, analysis Sasha Stone, founder of the site Daily Awards who has scrutinized film awards since 1999 and refers to Hollywood. “However, it turns out that many of these films were made by filmmakers of color and women”, she explains.

With theaters closed and spectators forced to use streaming, “It was the perfect combination”. “There were the movies, the movie community and they could do whatever they wanted without having to worry about the box office.Sasha Stone believes.

The scale of video on demand during the pandemic has “Certainly played” because “We observed that diversity on television increased much faster than in cinema”, confirms Darnell Hunt, sociologist specializing in the representation of minorities in the media at the University of Los Angeles.

The success of streaming “Has contributed to submitting to the Academy a much more diverse range of films than what they are used to seeing and that has translated into the nominations”, believes the researcher, who has conducted a study on diversity in Hollywood every year since 2014.

The Oscars, the ‘salade»From Hollywood

For him, as for Sasha Stone, the dazzling progress made by the Academy will undoubtedly not be so spectacular in the years to come, but he “Do not imagine that it can go back to the way it was before”.

“Everything is going in the right direction, the Academy continues to be more diverse and has introduced new criteria for the best feature film category” which should strengthen from 2022 the presence of ethnic minorities, women and LGBT people, both in front of and behind the screen.

Will this be enough to change Hollywood as a whole? Sasha Stone hopes so but notes that “Cinematographic prices are today really disconnected from the box office, they have become a niche”. However, according to it, the cinema industry seeks above all to “make money”.

“If male directors bring in more, they will continue to be engaged. And if the white actors generate more money, they will continue to be engaged ”, she says.

Hollywood “Wants to make money but also wants to have a good image and the Oscars help them with that. It’s like McDonald’s: they sell Big Macs all over the world but they have this salad that makes it look like they care about their health. This is what the Oscars are for Hollywood: the salad ”.

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Oscars 2021: the ceremony breaks diversity records

Hank Gilbert