The Oscars, the single most important event ceremony honoring cinematic accomplishments for the year, is fast approaching. However, with the release of the nominations list for the 88th Academy Awards on Jan. 14, it has created intense controversy. In a recent article by Joanna Robinson in Vanity Fair, she commented on how George Clooney, a paramount actor in the Hollywood scene, jabbed the academy for its lack of diversity.
Clooney spoke out about the “wrong direction” of the academy because for the second year in a row the nomination list failed to nominate a single actor of color. This means that critically acclaimed films with black actors, producers and directors like “The Hateful Eight,” “Dope,” “Beasts of No Nation,” “Chi-Raq,” “Creed” and “Straight Outta Compton” did not receive nominations. The only non-white nominee for a major Oscar this year is Alejandro González Iñárritu for Best Director.
Clooney also pointed out that African Americans have not been nominated nearly as much as they were 10 years ago. But that the real problem stems from the lack of diverse roles offered to minority members. The representation or lack thereof clearly highlights Clooney’s central argument.
Following Clooney’s example, celebrities such as Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee decided that they would boycott the Feb. 28 event in an effort to advocate for change. This sparked intense dialogue on social media as people began to show their support. The Twitter-sphere blew up with comments and pictures in an attempt to share their own commentary on the situation. Most tweets incorporated the trending hashtag #OscarsSoWhite to indicate the disappointment with the academy’s low diversity. The following tweets show the backlash that spread on Twitter due to the nearly all-white nominees’ list.
I thought it would be wise for The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to take immediate action in diminishing claims of racial bias by issuing a press release. The academy did just that by announcing new membership rules in response to the protests. The academy’s 51-member Board of Governors also voted to double the number of women and minority members in the academy by 2020 in an effort to increase diversity. The Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs stated that the implementation of these new initiatives is immediate and that she shares in the public’s dismay with the lack of inclusion by the academy.
Clooney’s actions show us the impact a celebrity has on society. He is more than just an actor. He is a man of substance; he goes beyond his role and advocates for change through his charitable work. His effort in improving diversity continues to help him maintain an image beyond the stereotypical superstar.
It comes as no surprise that he took a major step in addressing the current problems in the entertainment industry. I think his efforts are similar to a spokesperson in a public relations campaign with a goal of increasing public awareness. He undeniably showed that his status is capable of successfully raising awareness for a cause, transforming an organization and creating an immense amount of change for society.