As exciting as it is to predict that next year’s Academy Award nominations might feature people of color, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. On Thursday, Mashable tweeted a link to a story claiming that #OscarsSoWhite was “canceled” for next year.
This caused a Twitter storm and even got #OscarsSoWhite creator and BroadwayBlack.com managing editor, April Reign, tweeting. It turns out that there is an even bigger picture on the issue of the lack of diversity on the screens.
#OscarsSoWhite originated in 2015 when Reign was frustrated with the lack of inclusiveness of minority groups in not just film, but also television and other media outlets and industries. She brought this issue to light in hopes of “ensuring that people who are underrepresented have the opportunity to tell stories.”
At the 88th Academy Awards, films including “Creed,” “Straight Outta Compton,” and “Beasts of No Nation” were overlooked. What do they have in common? They had actors of color who weren’t nominated.
After the lack of acting nominations of people of color at the 87th Academy Awards, this was not okay. In fact, all the contenders for acting nominations were all white for the first time since 1998. Throughout Oscar history, only 14 black actors, five Latino actors, three Asian actors, two actors in the LGBT+ community, one indigenous actor, and one disabled actor won awards. Again, #OscarsSoWhite is not just about race. It’s granting opportunities for any minority to not only win a golden statue, but to make history. Also, this controversy is not just about the actors, but the directors, screenwriters, and the rest of the crew who tell the stories.
The Academy Class of 2016 invited 700 new members from around the world. They include Mahershala Ali (an African-American Muslim actor), Frieda Pinto (an Indian actress), John Boyega (a British actor of Nigerian descent), and many more familiar faces. Exciting, right? However, only 11% were people of color and and 27% were female.
Now, what was so offensive about that tweet and the story anyways? Reign deemed it “inappropriate” that a white male author used his privilege to pull the plug on a racial issue. The nominations weren’t even out yet, so it’s too close to call. Also, #OscarsSoWhite can’t be canceled just because Black people are in critically acclaimed films (or even in the ones that aren’t out yet) where they play strong leads.
Again, where are the Latinos, Asians, people with disabilities, etc.? That was what lead Reign to call Mashable out. “It’s two steps forward, one step back,” she summarized the controversy in a nutshell.
Reign rebutted Mashable’s tweet with #MashableCancels which soon became a trending topic. This was in hopes of addressing privilege and using the author’s logic against him. You can’t assume that the diversity issue is solved in the film industry just because Black people might have a chance at the Oscars again. Reign tweeted that it’s like ending “racism because the President is Black.”
Mashable has since deleted the tweet and issued an apology. Although, that wasn’t even the half of it.
In context, canceling #OscarsSoWhite doesn’t mean it won’t come back one day (God forbid!). When asked about the future of her famous hashtag, Reign responded with, “I don’t know for sure. This is what I deal with every day, but the goal is not to have these conversations anymore.” She’s not giving up on hope. Fortunately, the Academy is hoping to double the number of diverse members by 2020.
When diversity and inclusiveness becomes the norm and there are more opportunities, that’s when progress will truly be made. When white actors don’t have to portray people of color, that’s one step towards progress. When people of color don’t have to play stereotypical roles to win awards, that’s another step. When people of color play roles where they save themselves, that’s another step. When a film takes on a narrative that minorities want to get out there, that’s another step. The possibilities are endless!
It starts with you, whether you’re a movie-goer, a critic, an activist, an aspiring actor, an aspiring director, or an aspiring screenwriter. No matter what your race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, you can be the game changers. #OscarsSoWhite is more than just a hashtag. It’s more than a Black and white issue. It’s a conversation that can spark a movement.
A massive thank you to April Reign for taking the time to be interviewed and for speaking up on this thought-provoking and vital issue. You can check out her work at reignofapril.com and follow her on Twitter.