The Oscars have invited 928 new members to join the Academy, making it the most diverse new class ever
It’s no secret that Hollywood has a serious diversity issue. It’s not only about the small amount of movies and television shows that feature minority leads or about the mainly white backgrounds of writers, producers, or directors, but also about the lack of diversity when it comes to visibility at awards shows. The Oscars, in particular, have been under fire the last few years for this exact problem, prompting an #OscarSoWhite hashtag to popup. Following this, the Academy created a diversity initiative to increase the amount of women and minorities in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. And this year, the Oscars invited 928 members, making it the most diverse (and biggest) new class ever.
Since the initiative began three years ago, the Academy has currently added about 2,400 members, including the 928 members from this year alone. Now, the Academy consists of 6% more women since 2015 (bringing the total amount of women to 31%) and 16% people of color (which is double the number from 2015).
New members include Tiffany Haddish, Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, J.K. Rowling, Danai Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Silverman, Amy Schumer, Ken Jeong, Hannibal Buress, Dave Chappelle, Justin Simien, Kendrick Lamar, Questlove, Jamie Camil, and Gina Rodriguez.
In early 2016, the Academy announced that their goal was to double the number of diverse members by 2020. Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in a statement:
"The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up. These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition."
It’s great to see the Academy adding more people of color and female members, but it would be even better to see that translated to nominations and winners. It seems like we’re getting there, as the most recent Oscars was more diverse: a woman (Greta Gerwig) and a black man (Jordan Peele) were both nominated for Best Director; a woman (Rachel Morrison) was nominated for Best Cinematography; and Dee Rees became the second African American woman ever nominated for a screenplay award.
Still, it’s important to point out that even if the Academy is getting more diverse, Hollywood itself still has a long way to go. There are many statistics that show that women and minorities are significantly underrepresented as both directors and actors.
As the Los Angeles Times points out, some members of the Academy are not happy about the diversity push, believing it has “diluted the prestige of the institution. Bill Mechanic, a former 20th Century Fox and Walt Disney Studios executive, wrote a letter to the Academy’s board in April after resigning from his position in the board of governors, saying, “We have settled on numeric answers to the problem of inclusion, barely recognizing that this is the industry’s problem far, far more than it is the academy’s.”
So while we’re happy to see the Academy adding more females and minorities, we really want to see these results across Hollywood.