As the unfortunate incident of Will Smith slapping Chris Rock has pushed all other discussions around the 94th Academy Awards to stay in the background, it has become more important than ever to do the ‘diversity analysis’ of the Oscars 2022 to see what progress it has made over the years.
The Academy is notorious for snubbing diverse films and casts especially the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) for the distinguished Oscars awards. Not to forget that the more than 100-year-old Academy conferred the ‘Best Actress’ award for the first time on a black actress only in 2002 and the lucky winner was Halle Berry.
The debate around the lack of diversity in the Academy got heated in 2015 when all the 20 acting nominations went to white actors. This caused widespread outrage and a hashtag movement #OscarsSoWhite was launched on social media by actors, directors, fans, and critics to protest the Academy’s biasedness.
Similarly, the Academy repeated the same course of action in 2016 and awarded all the 20 nominations in the acting category to white actors for the second year in a row which gave new life to the #OscarsSoWhite protests.
Heeding the situation, the Academy promised to make significant changes to its nomination process. Earlier, there were almost 10,000 members of the Academy who were eligible to vote at the Oscars. These members belonged to 17 different voting branches with the right to vote in their own fields. The fate of a nominee depended on the number of votes as well as the size of the respective voting branch.
Fulfilling its promise, the Academy in 2020 increased the ranks of active members from underrepresented racial communities and the number of active women members by 9% and 8% respectively.
Apparently, the #OscarsSoWhite movement bore fruit as the Academy made a significant effort to increase the diversity of its membership. However, this change did not pay many dividends as the Oscars 2022 once again awarded all the nominations for ‘Best Actress’ and ‘Best Supporting Actor’ to White performers.
Nevertheless, two Black actresses Ariana DeBose, and Aunjanue Ellis won nominations for the category of ‘Best Supporting Actress.’ Likewise, two Black actors, Will Smith, and Denzel Washington succeeded in getting acting nominations for ‘Best Actor.’
Another development other than the Smith-Rock incident that will make the 94th Academy Awards be remembered in history is Ariana DeBose winning the best-supporting actress award. She is the first Afro-Latina to ever win an Oscar.
“You see an openly queer woman of color Afro-Latina who found her strength in life through art, and that is what I believe we’re here to celebrate. So to anybody who has ever questioned your identity or you find yourself living in the gray spaces, I promise you this, there is indeed a place for us,” DeBose said during the ceremony.
America is a multicultural society and its people of diverse backgrounds want to see themselves represented in every avenue, including the Academy Awards. However, Oscars 2022 again disappointed them by failing to achieve diversity. It did not suggest that the competitive awards made no progress at all since 2015. In fact, it passed through a number of barriers in its way to increasing diversity. Still, there’s a long way to go.