Dear Oscars, lighten up.
Despite the growing pressure from insiders and the public, the Oscars have less than delivered on the front of diversity.
April 25, 2021
Last year, the Oscars drew a total of 23.6 million viewers. While that may sound like a lot, it was a whole 6 million less than the 2019 Oscars’s audience. However, this staggering loss in viewership comes as no surprise to many.
The Oscars, like many other award shows, have been in an infinite downward spiral for a while now in terms of audience numbers, ratings, credibility, and diversity. And despite the constant heat these programs get, there has been little to no signs of tangible change.
It’s been six whole years since the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite went viral, quickly stirring up a complex conversation around the lack of racial diversity in Hollywood that has been deeply ingrained in the industry since, essentially, its founding. Along with #OscarsSoWhite, many individuals in and outside of the film industry called out the Academy for their lack of gender diversity in nominations, too. Despite the growing pressure from insiders and the public, the Oscars have less than delivered on the front of diversity. In 2020 only one actor of color was nominated (Cynthia Erivo of “Harriet”) and countless woman directors, such as Lulu Wang, Lorene Scafaria, and Greta Gerwig, were completely snubbed.
“I feel like the Oscars recognizes a very specific type of movie and actor and director, I can’t necessarily put my finger on what it is that they choose (aside from the fact that it’s predominantly white people they choose),” senior Gavin Kimmel said.
Once again, it’s really no surprise so many artists with minority identities are completely tossed out of the ring of contenders given the demographic makeup of the Academy (which decides who’s nominated, and, more importantly, who wins). In 2016, the Academy was roughly 94% caucasian and 67% male. This lack of diversity certainly does not reflect the very audience the Academy was created to serve: the American public.
That said, there has been some progress. In 2017, the mainly Black cast and crew of “Moonlight” swept the Oscars, and in 2020, the South Korean film “Parasite” did the same. This year, two Asian directors (Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland,” and Lee Isaac Chung, “Minari”) are nominated for Best Directing, along with two women (Zhao and Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman”). Still, it is hard to lend credibility to an institution that consistently snubbs artists who aren’t white, cisgender, and, more often than not, men.
Not only are the Oscars becoming an emblem of the Days of Hollywood Past representation-wise, but they’re also awkward. Like, terribly so.
The Oscars are consistently awkward because they live in this tiny microcosm in between providing prestige and providing entertainment. And neither is working. Yes, people still watch the Oscars for the programming. That, along with the possibility of goofs and fumble and even scandals can be incredibly enticing. That said, when a goof or fumble or even scandal does happen (remember the “Moonlight” and “La La Land” Best Picture debacle?), the Oscars don’t know how to handle it in a way that feels accessible to the general viewer. Why? Because in order to keep the air of mystery and esteem of an award show, the award show can’t admit that it can mess up — it’s too human to mess up.
That is where I think the Oscars are really losing viewership. With today’s modern climate of the ability to immediately connect with those once thought to be enigmas of celebrity through social media, very few people still find it enjoyable to watch a program that takes itself so seriously. It makes the Oscars feel stuffy and stiff, like a corpse with a sinus infection.
“It makes me sad that the Best Picture is almost always just dramas because there are so many good comedies and coming of age films out there that don’t get recognition,” said senior Grace Krasny.
“I still keep up with what awards are won, even though I’ve rarely seen any of the movies,” said Kimmel.
So, Oscars, lighten up! Have some fun! And, no, I don’t mean to completely abandon all sense of familiarity and turn into the adult version of the Kid’s Choice Awards, but at least relax a little bit.