Only white after Labor Day: Oscars do not show diversity

The 87th Academy Awards, premiering Feb. 22, will be the whitest since 1998.

More popularly known as the Oscars, the ceremony is a long-time favorite in entertainment. It’s also the film industry’s annual tribute to cinematic achievement. This year, The Daily Beast and many other news sources are calling out the lineup’s homogeneity.

Why? Because not a single person of color was nominated in any of the acting categories. But this was not solely about color. Rather, it reflected a much larger problem with the Academy Awards: a general lack of diversity.

“In the last two years, we’ve made greater strides than we ever have in the past toward becoming a more diverse and inclusive organization through admitting new members and more inclusive classes of members,” Academy President Boone Isaacs remarked in a Time Magazine piece. “And, personally, I would love to see and look forward to see a greater cultural diversity among all our nominees in all of our categories.”

Isaacs seems to tell, not show, and that’s the biggest problem. He doesn’t admit the lack of diversity as a problem, but says it’d be nice if it diversified. That’s like people saying it’d be nice if racism didn’t exist, but are not going to do anything about it.

So, just how diverse is the film industry in the first place? The 2014 Hollywood Diversity Report, using research from the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA breaks the demographics down for us.

Seventy-four percent of lead actors in theatrical films are male. Similarly, 95.9 percent of directors in theatrical films are male. Unsurprisingly, 89.5 percent of lead actors in theatrical films are white.

Even before 1998, gender, racial, and ethnic diversity has always been lacking within the Academy.

According to the The Hollywood Diversity Report, the Academy has over 6,000 members participating in the Oscar’s selection process; membership is about 93 percent white, 76 percent male, and the average member age is about 63 years.

Becoming a member of the Academy is not an easy task. There is no application. Two current members must sponsor you, thus reinforcing the lack of diversity in Academy membership, which then reflects itself in Oscar nominations and winners.

As the array of gender, racial, and ethnic groups increases in Hollywood, the Academy Awards will have to make room for new kinds of directors, writers, actors, and the like. If they don’t, they will continue leave large groups underrepresented and left out.