Critics and audiences alike eagerly awaited this year’s announcement of the 89th Academy Awards nominees. After the previous year’s awards saw celebrities like Will Smith and Spike Lee boycotting the event with the #OscarsSoWhite movement, all eyes were on the Academy to make some changes.
The Academy has not been shy about attempting to broaden its voting body in the face of last year’s controversy. Pledging to double its female and minority membership by 2020, the Academy invited 683 new members to join last year. Forty-six percent of those invited were women, while 41 percent were minorities. But it was still unclear whether those changes would result in more diverse films and artists being celebrated at the Oscars.
A full list of the nominees is available, but it was immediately apparent from the three major categories — acting, directing and writing — that things had changed. Well, sort of.
Every major acting category recognized a person of color this year, with a record seven minority actors honored across all categories. Six are black.
That ties the 2007 Oscars for most minority actors nominated and is, for many, a much-welcomed increase over the past five years. In both 2015 and 2016, all four acting categories were filled with white nominees. Even behind the camera, the past two years of Oscar contenders have been disappointingly homogenous.
Forbes visualized the diversity issue last year, using Oscar and U.S. Census data. A massive discrepancy exists between the diversity of Oscar nominees across the three major categories (acting, writing and directing), the diversity of the US population from 2015, and even the overall Hollywood culture.
About 97 percent of the 2016 Oscar nominees were white. According to the 2015 U.S. Census data, 62 percent of the U.S. population is white.
This year’s Oscar nominees trend a little more toward the national data.
While the Academy’s efforts after last year’s controversy seem to have resulted in some change, Asians and Hispanics continue to be underrepresented.
Additionally, minority representation is significantly less progressive when it comes to nominating those behind the camera. In both gender and race, the Academy has yet to really expand the diversity of directors and writer nominees.
According to the list of nominees on the Oscars site, only seven out of the fifty-eight of writers nominated in the past five years have been women. Allison Schroeder, the writer behind “Hidden Figures,” the historical account of three female black engineers at NASA, is the only woman nominated in either of the writing categories this year.
Female representation in the directing category is even more disappointing for those who want more diversity. In the past five years, the Oscars have failed to nominate a single female director. It’s possible this could be representative of a male-dominated field. According to the Celluloud Ceiling Report issued by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film this year, 7 percent of directors and 13 percent of writers in Hollywood are women.
Even in terms of race, it seems like the #OscarsSoWhite movement had much more of an impact on those nominated for their work in front of the camera. The three major categories were still overwhelmingly white, but there was noticeable change. Nods to “Moonlight” writer-director Barry Jenkins and playwright August Wilson are notable in this regard.
The three major categories are still a mixture of progress and status quo, but other, lower-profile categories saw changes toward greater diversity. People of color dominate the documentary feature category. Ava Duvernay (“13”), who was considered by some a snub for Best Director two years ago, Raoul Peck (“I Am Not Your Negro”), and Ezra Edelman (“OJ: Made in America”) were only three of the many minority directors nominated in this category.
The Academy, like other institutions recently, is slowly catching up with the rest of America. The Oscars this year represent something closer to the reality of this country, but many argue that there’s more work to be done.
The proof, of course, will be determined in more than just nominations. Of the 29 winners between 2013 and 2016 in the categories of acting, directing and writing, people of color have won only six times.