The Oscars’ New Diversity Rules Won’t Change Who Wins Best Picture
Hollywood has always straddled the line between authenticity and artifice, both onscreen and off. In the old-school studio system, it wasn’t unusual for an actor’s “real” identity to be as much a work of fiction as the movies he starred in. Backstories were fabricated; facts were massaged; private lives were obscured. Gay stars pretended to be heterosexual playboys, recognizably ethnic surnames were traded for anglicized ones, and mixed-race actors who could pass as white often took pains to do so.
In the next few years, the Hollywood game-playing surrounding identity may well take a new turn, with actors scrambling to classify themselves outside the white, cis, and heterosexual norms that their predecessors hewed to. This week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) handed down a brand new set of diversity and inclusion requirements, which films must start meeting in 2022 (with full rollout in 2024) to be eligible for Best Picture consideration. Those who want a shot at the Oscar will need to make sure their production meets those standards in at least two of the following four categories: “Onscreen Representation, Themes and Narratives,” “Creative Leadership and Project Team,” “Industry Access and Opportunities,” and “Audience Development.”
Although this announcement came at a moment when diversity commitments are particularly trendy, anyone who’s followed the Oscars and its attendant controversies over the past few years will know that it’s been brewing for much longer. It was 2015 when an all-white slate of acting nominees first prompted a viral backlash against the Academy and its yearly awards ceremony, a P.R. nightmare that Hollywood has been clumsily trying to overcome ever since. Prior to now, the biggest initiative was a 2018 mass recruitment of new members, which nudged the Academy’s makeup ever so slightly in a more diverse direction while making no real impact on its overall hegemony of white males. Unlike the Academy’s other efforts, this latest move carries a whiff of control, not just over Oscars consideration, but over the art itself.
To check that first box—”Onscreen Representation, Themes and Narratives”—a movie needs one of the following: a leading or ma
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