Despite efforts by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to diversify, there is a fear that this year’s awards may be dominated by white actors, resurrecting last year’s hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.
As ballots were cast for Oscar nominations, Motion Picture Academy members were facing the prospect that a lack of diversity might influence votes, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Last year’s awards found the Academy on the defensive as all 20 of the nominations in the lead and supporting categories were for white actors, launching a social media controversy with #OscarsSoWhite.
With other awards shows not facing the same problem, some academy members were concerned that another backlash would hurt its reputation as well as affect voting.
“If it’s all-white again, nobody’s going to be happy and there might be a growing perception that the academy is out of touch,” USC history professor Steve Ross told the Times. “It has to be a good performance, but, for some, if they’re deciding between Will Smith and somebody else, they might just go for Will Smith because of what happened last year.”
As a result of the 2015 controversy, the academy invited 322 new members in June, in the hope of spanning a wider demographic group. New to the academy, “Straight Outta Compton” director F. Gary Gray, who is African-American, said his votes would not be influenced by politics.
“I’m not going to allow politics to influence my judgment because then that defeats the purpose,” said Gray, according to the Times. “That’s not how I make movies and it’s not how I’ll vote. If something moves me and touches me, that’s probably the direction I’ll go.”
The Times reported:
This year’s prominent contenders of color include Michael B. Jordan (“Creed”), Will Smith (“Concussion”) and Samuel L. Jackson (“The Hateful Eight”). Gray’s “Compton,” nominated in December for a SAG Awards ensemble prize, is also in the mix, as is transgender actress Mya Taylor, who earned a Spirit Awards nomination for her turn as an L.A. prostitute in the indie film “Tangerine.”
Oscar nominations will be announced January 14 and the 88th Oscars ceremony will be held February 28.
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