Why the Oscars Need to Expand the Nominee Field
The most immediate way to address the Academy's lack of diversity is also the easiest one.
On the heels of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Cheryl Boone Isaacs issuing a statement addressing the lack of diversity in their ranks and choices of nominees, the New York Times is reporting that the Academy is expected to announce new measures to ensure more diversity going forward.
The move comes after an industry-wide uproar over the lack of non-white nominees in all of the major categories for this year’s Oscars, including shutting out worthy hopefuls like Creed and Straight Outta Compton for the best picture award. The call of inequality has caused filmmakers like Spike Lee and George Clooney to speak out against the lack of diversity, which in turn caused Isaacs to issue the unprecedented statement.
According to a source from the New York Times, the most immediate alleged change coming is to possibly expand the 10-nominee best picture field to other categories including best actor and actress or best director. Per the Times: “Expanding the acting nominations could result in more black, Hispanic, or Asian contenders, though it would certainly rile those who regard the five-nominee system, in place since the 1930s, as sacrosanct.”
In light of such blatant disregard for a level playing field, any sort of misguided nostalgia and illogical support for an arbitrary number of nominees just because it’s been that way for nearly 90 years should be immediately thrown out. It’s not 1930, it’s 2016. Expanding the amount of nominees is the easiest and most instantaneous way that the Academy can enact real change, and they’d all but guarantee a wider representation of worthy nominees in future ceremonies.
Increasing the amount of nominees wouldn’t just be good for the Oscars, but the industry as a whole as well. More credits that include “Academy Award nominee” or, even better, “Academy Award winner” would undoubtedly drum up more interest in audiences to buy more tickets to see movies in theaters and buy movies on home video. Equal representation would just be good for the potential nominees and the industry itself.
Other proposed measures reported by the Times, including pressuring Academy members to regularly cast ballots or to disqualify votes from members who have been inactive in the industry for an extended period of time, remain open and may be addressed by Isaacs as early as next week.
The easiest way for the Academy to diffuse the controversy is to make immediate changes now and continue to develop measures for the long run. Though by acknowledging their lack of diversity the Academy may have alienated the very people they now hope to include. Only time will tell if the AMPAS will begin to look less like 1930 and more like 2016.