Yes, it does matter. Like it or not, copping an Oscar is still considered the most prestigious award given to anyone working in the motion picture arts. And Hollywood has been very good at branding itself as an inclusive industry, but the Oscars has exposed them to be the opposite.
When actors like Halle Berry and Denzel Washington won their respective statues in 2002, it was such a big deal because Berry was the first Black woman to win for Best Actress, and Washington was only the second Black man to win for Best Actor.
You would think that more progress would be made over a decade later, but the nominations for Black artists in front of and behind the camera have either remained status quo or have been shut out all together. This became blatantly obvious when the nominations were announced in 2016.
Although the films Creed and Beasts of No Nation were outstanding pieces of work that were eligible for consideration, they got no love – except for a Best Supporting actor nomination for Sylvester Stallone. In fact, all nominees in that year were white, which revived April Reign’s 2015 hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.
The 2014 and 2015 nominations were no better. 12 Years A Slave picked up a few golden men in 2014, including Best Supporting Actress for Lupita Nyong’o, but that fed into the narrative that white Academy members prefer seeing Black actors playing slaves. And Selma won for Best Song in 2015, but again, it was a film that centered around Black struggle, a lens that white Academy members seem so comfortable with.
According to NPR, former Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the first Black president of the organization, made it her mission to increase membership diversity in 2016 after it was revealed that 92% were white and 75% male. She hoped to double the number of women and people of color in the Academy by 2020.
And now, it seems like the Academy is pushing forward with that goal as a record 928 new invitations went out on Monday to folks like Tiffany Haddish, Kendrick Lamar, and Jada Pinkett Smith. Others include comedian Dave Chappelle, actor Wendell Pierce, and musician Questlove.
Although Haddish, Lamar and Pinkett Smith (who had a lot to say about Oscars being so white) have not posted whether they will accept the invitations, others made it clear on social media that they are happy to be a part of the class of 2018 like actresses Regina King and Quvenzhane Wallis. Michael “Bae” Jordan and Lee Daniels, who are already members, welcomed them to the club.
So, the question remains – Will more diverse stories of color be recognized at the most recognizable awards event in the world because of these new members?
Renese spends her early mornings writing, her days securing insurance for TV shows, and her in-betweens blogging about the silliness and seriousness of life on her blog. Follow Renese on Twitter: @reneseford