The Oscars voting body invited Tiffany Haddish, Kumail Nanjiani, Mindy Kaling, Dave Chappelle and other actors in a push toward more diversity.
Could 2019 finally be the year of #OscarsSoWoke?
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences sent out a record 928 invitations to new members on Monday, welcoming a number of women and people of color such as Tiffany Haddish, Kumail Nanjiani, Mindy Kaling, Amy Schumer, J.K. Rowling and Dave Chappelle in a visible push to continue diversifying its ranks. Those who accept their invitations will be inducted into the Academy, the 90-year-old voting body of film industry professionals that hands out Oscar nominations and awards, in private ceremonies this fall.
This year’s invitation list isn’t just a huge increase over the 774 new members invited last year — not to mention previous years, when getting 200 newbies was considered a major spike. It’s also making strides toward gender parity, with about half (49%) of this year’s invitations extended to women, compared to 39% last year. And Variety noted that nine of the Academy’s 17 branches (including actors, film editors and producers) invited more women than men this year, which will bring the female proportion of its membership to 31%.
Hey yo. I’m in The Academy. https://t.co/CACVvdK5ry
— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) June 25, 2018
Welcoming more women comes in the wake of the #MeToo movement calling out sexual misconduct (largely against women) in all industries, but which began with dozens of women accusing movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault last fall, as well as the industry-led Time’s Up initiative for safety and equity in the workplace.
The Academy has historically been white and male, with the average Oscar voters as recently as 2014 being men (76%) and white (94%) and 63 years old, on average. But then the Academy nominated all-white groups of acting nominees in both 2015 and 2016, which led to widespread public outcry demanding more diversity in Hollywood, reflected in #OscarsSoWhite trending on Twitter, and actors like Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith boycotting the Oscars in 2016. So the Academy promised to double its number of “women and diverse members” by 2020.
It appears to be making good on its promise, although there is still a long way to go. Thirty-eight percent of this year’s new members are people of color, for example, but that still only adds up to 16% of the roughly 8,300 Academy members overall — although that is still twice as many as just three years ago.
The bottom line is, it pays to support films that reflect the diversity of movie audiences today. Movie casts with a lot of minorities generally attract more moviegoers, according to UCLA’s 2016 Hollywood Diversity Report, which found that eight films released in 2014 with a 41% to 50% minority cast had a median global box office gross of $122.2 million; the 55 films with minority representation of below 10% earned just $52.6 million.
And a more diverse Academy can lead to green-lighting and celebrating projects that tell stories from perspectives other than those of white males. After all, underdog indie film “Moonlight,” following the coming-of-age story of an African-American protagonist, took the best picture from “La La Land” in 2017 — while “The Shape of Water,” featuring a mute female protagonist, became the first sci-fi movie to win best picture earlier this year.
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