On Tuesday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that Oscar eligibility for best picture must now meet diversity and inclusion requirements.
New diversity standards for best picture nominees
Starting in 2024, best picture nominees must now meet at least two new standards in four categories: “Onscreen Representation, Themes and Narratives,” “Creative Leadership and Project Team,” “Industry Access and Opportunities” and “Audience Development.”
For “Onscreen Representation, Themes and Narratives,” either a lead actor has to be from a racial or ethnic group, the general cast has to be at least 30% women, LGBTQ, with physical disabilities, or is part of a racial or ethnic group, or the major storyline having to be about one of the previous underrepresented groups.
To meet “Creative Leadership and Project Team” criteria either two leadership or key crew roles are filled by those from underrepresented groups or 30% of the crew are to come from underrepresented groups. “Industry Access and Opportunities” would need the film to have underrepresented groups get at least 2 paid internships or apprenticeships in the production, or the production has to offer crew training opportunities for those groups.
And finally to meet “Audience Development” criteria the production must have in-house senior executives coming from underrepresented groups.
Change starts now. We've announced new representation and inclusion standards for Best Picture eligibility, beginning with the 96th #Oscars. Read more here: https://t.co/qdxtlZIVKb pic.twitter.com/hR6c2jb5LM
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) September 9, 2020
New standards created after years of backlash over largely white nominees and winners
The changes were made largely due to public backlash over most Oscar winners and nominees not being racially diverse, including a huge outcry from many minorities following no major nominees being non-white during the 2016 Oscars that created a Twitter hashtag called #OscarsSoWhite. Following years of public backlash, the Academy created a task force to create new standards for inclusion. The new rules unveiled Tuesday were developed by the task force, basing them largely on the British Film Institute Diversity Standards that were applied to the British BAFTA awards several years ago following similar outcry in the United Kingdom.
“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,” said Academy President David Rubin and Chief Executive Dawn Hudson in a joint statement. “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.”
Backlash and potential issues over the new standards
However, despite many ethnic groups and some Hollywood actors applauding the move, the new standards have also been met with sharp criticism, with some coming from actors themselves.
So, comrades, here are the new mandatory requirements for Oscar eligibility for Best Picture. Fun game: pick any past Best Picture winner or nominee that would NOT qualify under these insane rules, e.g. The Godfather, Saving Private Ryan, etc. pic.twitter.com/cnAV5L8V3F
— James Woods (@RealJamesWoods) September 9, 2020
“This is absolutely ridiculous,” Danielle Archer, a movie consultant and location scout in the Inland Empire explained to the Globe. “Period-piece accuracy is likely going out the window.”
“But remember, a lot of movies that aim to get best picture already try for a lot of these things, especially the theme. There’s even an industry term for it – Oscar Bait. They’re just trying to stay relevant. Oscar viewership has been going down for years, hitting a new low during the 2020 Oscars this year, and that was with the most number of diverse winners ever. Less and less people, young and old alike, don’t want to watch millionaires give themselves awards for four hours. But more and more movies that are Oscar quality are also being released digitally now, with maybe only a small run in arthouse cinemas. So many Netflix movies don’t get called up. Even if they do meet requirements, they only get snubbed there.”
“And the thing is, digitally released movies are actually way more diverse than Hollywood movies, as they touch on subjects for any demographic imaginable. It’s still majority white, but it’s about on the level of the current U.S. demographics.”
“That’s why the Academy is doing this. It’s partially wanting to get rid of any diversity criticism, but they also see how Netflix and other competitors who aren’t even trying for Oscars are routinely defeating them in diversity.”
Others commented that this could also lead to a possible reversal of progress.
“Ethnic villains might make a comeback,” a sound editor in Los Angeles who wished to remain anonymous said to the Globe. “If one of the requirements is 30% of the cast being diverse, we may see that. Mexican villains in westerns, racially diverse gangs in action movies. We’ve already been seeing this start to come back in a lot of movies, like the new Death Wish movie. On movies I’ve worked on in recent years, I’ve noticed this trend.”
“A lot of people don’t want to admit this is a possibility, but if you have an action movie or war movie, that’s a quick way to meet that requirement. Let’s face it, Tora! Tora! Tora! was way more diverse than 2001’s Pearl Harbor or the more recent Midway, and we’re only going to see more juxtaposition like that.”
“Plus most movies meet these requirements anyway naturally. An average *rom-com, for example, will have a perfect 50-50 actor and actress split with enough diverse characters scattered around.”
While the new standards are to begin in 2024, for the 2022 and 2023 Oscars an inclusion form will be needed for best picture nominees as a way to transition to the new diversity and inclusion requirements.
* rom-com: Romantic Comedy
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