After two years of backlash and outcry over the lack of diversity within Academy Award nominations, there has been a slight increase in racial diversity within the four acting categories.
Seven out of the 20 nominees for Best Actor and Actress and Best Actor and Actress in a Supporting Role are people of color (POC). These actors include Denzel Washington for “Fences,” Mahershala Ali for “Moonlight,” Dev Patel for “Lion,” Ruth Negga for “Loving,” Viola Davis for “Fences,” Naomie Harris for “Moonlight” and Octavia Spencer for “Hidden Figures.” This is unlike last year’s nominees in these categories, who were all white.
According to Entertainment Tonight, this year’s black actors are nominated in every acting category in Oscars’ history. With these nominations, many are satisfied with this slight recognition towards equality. While it’s great that there has been a positive response to the backlash the Academy has received, seven POC out of 20 nominees overall still isn’t considered equal, especially when comparing how many POC have been nominated for Academy awards in the past.
For instance, Patel is the third Indian actor to receive a nomination. He’s also the only Indian to be nominated for an Oscar this year. The other six people of color who are nominees are black. Thirteen Asian and Asian-American actors have been nominated in the 88 years the Academy Awards have been held. Recognizing that racial diversity isn’t only about the inclusivity of black people is an important step for the Academy to take, and one it hasn’t done very well.
However, the beauty of diversity is that it isn’t restricted to one category. While race plays a large role in how we react to and talk about diversity, we need to recognize that there are different areas, such as gender, sexuality, religion, etc.
It’s great that we’ve seen women in influential and powerful roles. Movies like last year’s “Ghostbusters” and next year’s “Ocean’s Eight” include all-female casts, which is so important for younger girls to see and for society to recognize as normal.
Stepping away from what we’ve accepted as “normal” and “right” in terms of the types of characters we see on screen is crucial. Diversification of roles in multiple categories gives people watching a sense of comfort and acceptance, and introduces society to different and maybe unfamiliar things.
I believe that one way we can continue to influence who we see in movies and on TV is to demand diversity. The representation of people of color on the big screen is something we, as consumers, should demand. For once, I would love to see someone who looks like me have a lead role in a powerful movie, instead of being cast as a background actor with a few lines that perpetuate popular stereotypes.
We’ve seen the impact hashtags and protests have done for Hollywood. #OscarsSoWhite sparked conversation and made the Academy see how consumers really felt. Let’s not forget how powerful we are when we demand equality. Continue to fight for it.