In the past years, the Academy Awards have been rightfully and widely criticised for a clear lack of diversity within its categories. Typically, nominations have favored white male characters and story lines, in some years this has been starkly apparent with little to no actors from underrepresented groups nominated. Hashtags such as #OscarsSoWhite both drew attention to the Academy’s under representation of people of color and its lack of diversity as a whole. Despite this being a long-standing problem, the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite quickly took hold in January 2015 and was followed by a series of different persons or organisations calling out the Oscars in subsequent years. After the list of Oscar nominees for best director were announced for the 2020 awards, the host Issa Rae powerfully commented ‘congratulations to those men.’ Recently, the organisation announced that they will be putting in place diversity requirements for best picture nominees, due to come into force at the 96th Academy Awards in 2024.
Addressing race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity and disability the Academy Awards set out new guidelines that will require films to meet two of four diversity standards, that don’t just cover on-screen representation but runs deeper, addressing the crew behind the scenes and expanding into the marketing and outreach of the film itself. These new parameters are split into Standards A, B, C and D, which each have their own criteria. Within these parameters the use of ‘underrepresented groups’ refers to and includes women, racial or ethnic groups, LGBTQ+ persons and those with cognitive or physical disabilities. Where ‘underrepresented racial or ethnic group’ looks to include those of Asian, Hispanic, Indigenous, Black/African American heritage and so forth. These standards will be applicable for eligibility and consideration only in the Best Picture category. The Academy Award’s recent press release outlined the following standards and criteria as such:
Standard A focuses on on-screen representation whether actors, themes or narratives, one of the following must be met:
At least one lead or significant supporting actor must be from an underrepresented racial ethnic groups.
A minimum of 30% of the general ensemble cast (secondary and minor roles) must be made up of at least two out of the four aforementioned underrepresented categories.
The main story line, subject matter, theme or narrative must be centered on these aforementioned underrepresented groups.
Standard B looks at inclusivity within the crew and project team, one of the following criteria must be met:
A minimum of two of the creative leadership positions or department heads (such as director, cinematographer, composer, make-up artist etc.) must held by persons from an underrepresented group. One of which needs also to be held by an under represented racial or ethnic group.
In terms of other key roles, at least six further crew/team/technical positions should be held from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group.
Overall the film crew composition should again comprise of at least 30% of underrepresented groups.
Standard C emphases industry opportunities and access:
The film’s distributor or financing company must have at least two paid apprenticeships or internships from an underrepresented group.
The film’s production, distribution or financing company must offer training, work opportunities and skill development to people from those underrepresented groups.
Standard D looks at representation in marketing, publicity and distribution:
The studio and/or film company needs to have multiple in-house senior executives from both underrepresented racial or ethnic groups and underrepresented groups.
Speaking on the new guidelines, Oscar President David Rubin and chief executive Dawn Hudson, said: ‘The aperture must widen to reflect our diverse global population in both the creation of motion pictures and in the audiences, who connect with them. The Academy is committed to playing a vital role in helping make this a reality. We believe these inclusion standards will be a catalyst for long-lasting, essential change in our industry.’
In 2002 Halle Berry won the Oscar for Best Actress and was the first black woman to do so. Since, no black actresses have won this award. The Academy has also been criticized for female films such as the recent Little Women, directed by Greta Gerwig not being watched by all members and therefore not receiving due attention. Prior to the new standards announcement, the Academy was called upon several times to do more to demonstrate its inclusivity. In one move, it promised to double its female and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic member representation, recently inviting 819 in new members, 45% of whom were women and 36% non-white, stating that it has now doubled the number of female members and tripled the number of people from underrepresented ethnic and racial demographics, according to the BBC.