After an all-white list of 2016 Academy Awards nominees were announced for the second consecutive year, the hashtag #oscarssowhite ignited a firestorm on social media.
Those noticeably absent from the Best Actor category included veteran actor Will Smith for his lead role in “Concussion,” young Hollywood actor Michael B. Jordan for his role in “Creed,” and actor Idris Elba for “Beasts of No Nation.”
Critically acclaimed box office hit “Straight Outta Compton” was also left off the list when films were considered for the Best Picture category.
However, its screenwriters, Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff, both of whom are white, were nominated for Best Screenplay.
As soon as the nominees for the Academy Awards were announced, social media users, political activists, and celebrities alike were in an uproar over the continuous lack of African-American
recognition in Hollywood.
To make matters even more complicated, comedian Chris Rock will be hosting the award show on Feb. 28, and many people have called on him to quit.
One of the many celebrities to take a public stance against the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was actress Jada Pinkett-Smith.
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Pinkett-Smith posted a video on Facebook, in which she renounced the Oscars, going so far as to say that she would be boycotting the event.
She also added in her video that although the Academy has the right to nominate whomever they choose, she believes that it is time for African-Americans and other people of color to start using their resources to create programs that acknowledge them.
While many celebrities have sided with Pinkett-Smith, including her husband Will Smith and actor, director, producer and honorary Oscar recipient Spike Lee, others have also criticized her, believing that Pinkett-Smith is only speaking out because her husband was not nominated.
One of Pinkett-Smith’s biggest critics happened to be her husband’s former co-star on the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” Janet Hubert.
Hubert posted a video on social media in which she blasted the Smiths’, stating, “You have a huge production company that you only produce [for] your friends and family and yourself. So, you are a part of Hollywood, you are part of the system that is unfair to other actors. So get real.”
Just like Hubert, St. John’s junior David Rosario doesn’t agree with Pinkett-Smith and other celebrities who plan to boycott the Oscar festivities.
“I think there were several strong performances given by black actors in films like ‘Beasts of No Nation,’ ‘Creed’ and ‘Straight Outta Compton’ that were overlooked by the Academy this year,” said Rosario. “However, I don’t think this is a matter of them not wanting to recognize these actors and actresses. Film is a subjective art form and they have the right to nominate whoever they think is worthy of the accolades.”
“They’ve recognized actors and filmmakers of color in the past. It just so happens that this year, the performances that the Academy voters deemed worthy of recognition came from white actors. We might disagree with the list of nominees, but that’s not reason enough to demand boycotts,” Rosario continued.
Junior Nathalie Tigua also shared the same sentiments as both Hubert and Rosario.
“I think that Jada Pinkett-Smith is only doing this because of Will and it’s a shame because his performance in ‘Concussion’ wasn’t great,” said Tigua. “His accent made me want to laugh and the movie isn’t even a comedy.”
The lack of diversity amongst Oscar nominees has re-opened dialogue about the racial makeup of the Academy members, who are responsible for the nominations.
According to a study conducted by the Los Angeles Times in 2012, of the 5,765 voting members of the Academy, 94% are white and 77% are male. In addition, the voting members had a median age of 62 years old.
Due to the mounting controversy, the Board of Governors, under the leadership of Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, an African-American woman, unanimously voted on Thursday night to pass initiatives that would double the number of women and diverse members of the Academy by 2020.
Academy officials released a statement on their website on Friday detailing how they plan on achieving this goal.
In the statement, the Board of Governors announced that beginning later this year, every new member of the Academy will be eligible to vote for 10 years. If that member has been active in motion pictures during those 10 years, then they’ll be eligible to vote for another 10 years. After three 10 year-terms, or if they’ve been nominated for an Oscar, members will receive lifetime voting rights. These new standards will also be applied retroactively to current members.
For members who do not qualify for active status, they will be moved to emeritus status. These members will not have to pay dues and will still be able to enjoy all the privileges as a member of the Academy, except for voting.
In addition, the Academy will also be launching a global campaign to identify and recruit qualified new members who represent greater diversity.
The Academy will also be taking immediate action to diversify the Board of Governors by creating three new governor seats that will be nominated by the President for three-year terms and confirmed by the Board.
“The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up,” said Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs. “These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition.”