Out of the 35 nominations for the Big Five categories of this year's 94th Academy Awards, only seven include participants of Black, Asian or Latin American ethnic backgrounds. The Big Five, generally seen as the most prestigious categories at the Oscars, are comprised of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Screenplay, both adapted and original. As Statista's Florian Zandt shows in the chart below, this is largely in line with the share of minority nominees combined between 2015 and 2021.
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This issue appears to be most prevalent in the award category Best Actress, where only five women from Black or Latin American backgrounds were nominated and none of them won between 2015 and 2021. Concerning Best Director and Best Picture, 2019 saw a landmark victory for South Korean director Bong Joon-Ho, who won both awards with his black comedy thriller Parasite. Joon-Ho and his co-writer Han Jin-Won were the first people of Asian descent ever to win screenwriting and Best Picture awards at the Oscars. A Latin American mainstay in terms of Academy Award nominations is Guillermo del Toro, who was nominated for three awards since 2015 and is up for another in the Best Picture category with Nightmare Alley this year.
The idea that this share of nominees doesn't reflect the demographics of the United States and serves to underline the minority status of non-white voices in the movie industry led to the #oscarssowhite movement in 2015, which gained increased traction in 2016 after the Academy allegedly failed to address the concerns voiced by proponents of this movement. The issue that the movie industry doesn't reflect general society has also been backed by research in the past. For example, according to a study by the University of California, 26 percent of movie writers and 25 percent of movie directors had a minority background in 2020, while the group of people with singular Hispanic, Latin American, Black or African American backgrounds alone comprised 31 percent of the U.S. population in the same year.
One group that's particularly absent and isn't talked about at length are actors, directors and writers with a distinctly Arabian background. In 2021, for example, only two films by Arabian filmmakers were nominated, Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania’s The Man Who Sold His Skin and The Present by Palestinian filmmaker Farah Nabulsi.
But, as Scott Johnson writes at LAMag.com, the Academy has a plan to 'fix' this...
Have you heard about Aperture 2025?
It may sound like a Roland Emmerich sci-fi movie, but it’s actually more frightening. And much more controversial. It’s the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’s latest initiative to make Hollywood more equitable and diverse - more woke - by changing the rules by which films are eligible for Best Picture nominations.
Here’s how it works: Starting in 2024, producers will be required to submit a summation of the race, gender, sexual orientation, and disability status of members of their movie’s cast and crew. If a particular movie does not have enough people of color or disabled people or gays or lesbians working on the set—and what is “enough” will be determined by a knotty tangle of byzantine formularies—then that movie will no longer be eligible for an Oscar.
Not surprisingly, the plan is not being universally applauded in Hollywood. Critics say it’s invasive, anticreative, opens the door to privacy issues, and is spectacularly unfair to actors and crew members, who may want to keep their sexual orientation or health profiles to themselves, not to mention to producers and directors who have enough to worry about while shooting a movie than to be saddled with the thankless task of tallying up the identity markers of their creative partners.
“I mean, why aren’t animals in this?” sneers one industry insider. “What if the main character is a horse?”
Last year, the Oscars drew an all-time low of 9.85 million viewers - less than what an episode of The Big Bang Theory used to get. Granted, the pandemic and the resulting dearth of theatrical releases contributed to the decline, but the truth is, Oscar ratings began plummeting long before COVID-19. At its height in the 1990s, the ceremony was pulling in as many as 55 million viewers in the United States...
There’s no shortage of theories to explain why viewers are turning off to the Oscars: The shrinking of movie actors as cultural icons (as TikTok and Instagram stars become the ascendant media gods); the reluctance of the Academy to update the ceremony, which has remained substantially unchanged since it was first broadcast in 1953; the growing chasm between the esoteric tastes of the Academy’s voting members (who this year nominated Drive My Car, a Japanese drama about a grieving theater director putting on a production of Uncle Vanya in Hiroshima) and the preferences of the wider theater-going public (who likes Spider-Man).
Whatever the reason, the conclusion is inescapable: The Oscars are tanking.