Last year during the Oscar nomination season it came to light the little amount of actors of color that have been nominated for an Oscar in the whole history of the award show. Before 2015 the last year when a non-white actor was nominated in the lead or supporting actor category was 1998, which is far too long when you think about the amount of actors of color that have been on all the movies over the last 17 years. To make things worse in the 88 years that the Academy Awards has been happening only 14 African American have won acting Oscars. The winners pool is even shallower for actors of other minorities.
These surprising facts were what spawned the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite during the nominations for last years Academy Awards. When this hashtag first appeared the academy did not really do anything to talk to the public about what was happening or try to control the crisis at hand at all. Because the academy did not step up and try to control the situation many celebrities decided to boycott the actually Academy Awards event. Among celebrities who decided to boycott were Will and Jada Pinkett Smith. For a full list of celebrities who decided to boycott or spoke out about the Academy Awards in 2016 look here.
After the hashtag went viral at last years Academy Awards and several celebrities refused to attend the pressure was on to see if the list of nominees would be more inclusive for this years Oscars. When the list of nominations was released the list was a bit more diverse including Octavia Spector, Denzel Washington and Barry Jenkins all taking home nominations. But according to many insiders they find that the fight for fair representation for people of every diversity is far from over. There are still a number of communities that are under represented in the Academy Awards nominations list this year and that will be the real battle.
This hashtag was a great example of how audiences can use social media to change the norms in our culture. The creation of this hashtag brought this problem to the forefront of a lot of people’s minds because it was something people may not have thought about before. Not only did this hashtag bring it to the public’s attention it also brought the problem to the academy’s mind, which many people think is part of the reason for the more diverse nominations on this years ballot for the Academy Awards. Before this hashtag a lot of people in the Academy probably did not consider the fact that the nominations were not very diverse, so this hashtag changes the cultural norms around what the nominations are supposed to be. Social media plays a very important role in this whole story because without social media the hashtag that made this story so real would not have existed.
Now my question is if the Academy had been on top of what was happening with their audience and had been able to respond to their complaints, would the whole hashtag fiasco never have occurred? The Academy never responded to the hashtag or any complaints from their audience and although the nominations do seem more inclusive this year, that could just be by chance because of the movies that have been released in the past year. If the Academy was more responsive to their audience in the first place this hashtag may have never blown up the way that it did, celebrities would not have boycotted the event and the Academy would not be having the problems with their audience that they are having now.