Controversy in the Film Industry: Lack of Diversity

In just a couple weeks on February 22, the world will be watching one of our favorite award shows, The Oscars. All of Hollywood’s finest actors, actresses, directors, and producers as well as countless people working on the technical side will gather to see who will win one of the highest honors in the world of cinema. However, behind all the smiles we’ll see on our televisions there is something Hollywood is reluctant to bring to our attention.

When the Oscar nominations were announced, the internet filled with outrage at the fact that for all of the Acting categories, only white actors received nominations. This year’s submissions for Oscars were not devoid of performances by minority actors. Selma’s lead actor David Oyelowo born of Nigerian descent, seemed to be one of the most worthy contenders for a Best Actor award and yet his name remained absent from the nominee list. Also, Riz Ahmed born of British- Pakistani descent, plays in the provocative film “Nightcrawler” and received plenty of praise from critics for his performance but is work this past year is absent of formal recognition.

Some people have raised questions on why minorities seem to be overshadowed when awards season comes around. This isn’t a new phenomenon. Says Schreyer film-video major Abby Jackson, “The academy does not like provocative material… In order to have more representation at the Oscars, we need more minority people employed at the get-go.”

A lot of the people behind the scenes in film such as producers and casting directors are under the impression that people won’t pay to see a film with a minority led cast. This leads to an overlooking of minority actors before a film even gets underway. Minority actors only make up 10.5 percent of lead acting roles according to the 2014 Hollywood Diversity Report. The good news is that this number seems to be on the rise but the problem still stands that the number of minority actors compared to their white counterparts is staggering.

So what is the solution to this problem? First, those actually making films need to become more progressive and open minded. Also, we at home can make a commitment to support all types of films. We as consumers make a huge difference on what types of movies get made and when. If we can make it known to film execs that movies casted with minority actors are important then that change is bound to happen.

Perhaps this next time year, we’ll be writing about the abundance of diversity in Hollywood. Until then, enjoy your Oscar parties – we hope all your favorites win!