The Academy is diversifying, but will Sunday’s ceremony reflect that?

Sam Levy and Greta Gerwig on the set of Lady Bird (2017). Via IMDb

Diversity amongst Oscar nominees and the Academy has a murky past. After the past few years of #OscarsSoWhite, it seemed that the Academy took the hint in 2016 when it welcomed 683 potential members, with 46 percent of the invitees being women and 41 percent being people of color. The trend continued this past year, when the Academy’s record-breaking 774 new members boasted 39 percent women and 30 percent people of color.

Some of the 2017 new class includes actress Gal Gadot from “Wonder Woman” (2017), actress Sarah Paulson from “12 Years a Slave” (2013), director and screenwriter Barry Jenkins from “Moonlight” (2016) and director and screenwriter Jordan Peele from “Get Out” (2017).

This year, the Academy’s nominations are receiving praise for their diversity, specifically in the Best Director category with Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig. Peele is the fifth black Best Director nominee and Gerwig is the fifth female Best Director nominee. If Peele wins he will be the first black Best Director winner. If Gerwig wins, she will be the second female Best Director winner. Many, like Boston Globe film critic Ty Burr, are excited for this change to allow new voices and stories to be told.

“They have been consciously, in the past couple of years, trying to diversify the Academy,” Burr said in an interview.

Burr sees that pay off in last year’s Best Picture winner, “Moonlight” (2016), which won over the critic-predicted “La La Land” (2016). Burr’s editor, Janice Page, foresees the Academy’s diversity push impacting the Best Picture win this year. On Sunday, Page predicted “Get Out” (2017) will win Best Picture.

“I’ve been having this conversation with Janice, my editor and friend,” Burr said. “She thinks [“Get Out” is] going to win, and she has a point, because the membership isn’t playing by the old rules anymore, especially in this moment and political situation being what it is.”

With these new rules also comes the expectation that the Oscars will continue its active inclusion of women and people of color. Despite the active changes in the past few years, the overall Academy is still just 28 percent women and 13 percent people of color. Additionally, decreasing percentages from 2016 to 2017 are concerning; however, the Academy has set a goal of doubling its female and minority membership by 2020, following the 50/50 by 2020 initiative started earlier this year for workplaces and industries.

Noting that there is more work to be done, Burr said that nothing will really start to change until the diversity goes beyond directors and actors. As women and people of color begin to fill positions of power in the industry, the films made and nominated will diversify even further.

“It’s not going to play out until there’s more representation in places where you can’t see it, you know, with the people who push the button and make it happen,” Burr said.


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