Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Academy Learns A Lesson

With the massive #OscarsSoWhite backlash against the Academy Awards for a second straight year without a single person of color nominated for a major acting or directing category, and high-profile actors like Jada Pinkett Smith, her husband Will Smith, and Mark Ruffalo calling the Academy out, the organization is moving quickly to repair its less than golden image.

The organization that hands out Hollywood’s highest honors, reacting to criticism of its all-white slate of Oscar acting nominees this year, is taking steps to improve the diversity of its membership, including curtailing the voting rights of inactive participants.

The goal is to double the number of women and minorities who are members by 2020, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences said Friday in an e-mailed statement. The organization plans to add three new governors to its board immediately.

The absence of a minority nominee for a second-straight year, especially after critically acclaimed performances by Will Smith in “Concussion” and Idris Elba in “Beasts of No Nation,” has sparked renewed calls for change and revived the Twitter hashtag #Oscarssowhite. Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who is black, promised there would be changes after the nominations were announced on Jan. 14.

“One good step in a long, complicated journey for people of color + women artists,” Ava DuVernay, who directed “Selma,” said on Twitter after the announcement. “Shame is a helluva motivator.”

Starting this year, each new member’s voting status will last 10 years, and will be renewed if that new member has been active in motion pictures during that decade, the academy said. Lifetime voting rights will be bestowed on individuals after three 10-year terms, or if they have won or been nominated for an Academy Award. 

April Reign, who has done an amazing job for a second year with #OscarsSoWhite, has gotten a lot of press over this and has really been an excellent voice for people of color concerning the movement.  She's pretty pleased with the results:

I’m very encouraged. I think that the changes that will be made will make a significant difference. I appreciate the fact that the vote was unanimous, which indicates to me that the academy is serious about making the organization more inclusive and more diverse. I’ve spoken about my concern that some of the older academy members still have a vote even though they aren’t active in the film industry and that appears to be addressed.

The fact that they will be proactively looking for more diverse members is [also] exciting.

And the lesson:

Never say it’s just Twitter or that social media can’t change things, because I think we’re seeing it. My words and the words of so many seem to have resonated with the academy. There were thousands of people using the hashtag. I think this is a really good start toward systemic change with respect to the academy.

It's one the Academy is learning the hard way this weekend.

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