During 2015 and 2016 Academy Award season, two nominee ballots consisting almost exclusively of straight white males led the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite to spread like wildfire on social media. In 2017, the Academy made efforts to diversify the voter group, and it led to success for the films “Moonlight,” “Hidden Figures,” “Lion” and more, which were each considered unconventional nominees for Best Picture. Even more unconventionally diverse films earned Best Picture considerations this year, including “Get Out,” “Shape of Water,” “Call Me By Your Name”, and “Ladybird.” This is a step in the right direction.
For many people, the Oscars represent a ridiculous and unnecessary ritual—a group of rich and privileged people who gather annually in fancy clothes to congratulate themselves on their own talent and success. And while that is all certainly true, the Academy Awards and similar award ceremonies actually serve a bigger purpose. The awards are designed to recognize entire teams, not just individuals, for their hard work and for their commitment to using their skills and resources to create art. The awards provide value quite literally through resulting ticket sales and profits, but also through their reputation and significance.
Regardless of how we feel about them, the value is real, which is why it is important that these shiny trophies are going to the right people. To support your favorite films, buy a ticket, spread the buzz, and tune-in to watch the awards. It may sound like I’m simply advertising for Hollywood, but those simple actions are what drive the economic forces that support the awards.
Personally, I’d love to see the increase in diversity to continue, both in the people behind the selected films and within the selected films themselves. I hope to see more new faces holding statuettes, more alternative platforms seeing success (are we ready for a Netflix original to see the stage?) and more effort to diversify the group of voters. “Shape of Water,” a film that could reasonably be classified as a political fantasy romance, along with “Get Out,” a social thriller, have paved an optimistic road for more genre films to be recognized.
While they may not be perfected yet, I do believe that the Academy is taking steps in the right direction. With support from viewers and fans, I think they can craft a new breed of ceremony that will bring much needed excitement, improvement and validity to what seems to be an aging, dying event.