2018: Diversity at the Oscars and the (Little) Difference It Made

Mia Mikki, Reporter

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Glitz, Glamour and a #ALittleLessWhite marked the 90th Academy Awards ceremony with breakthroughs in multiple awards for different minority groups. The highlight of the evening included Jordan Peele winning Best Original Screenplay for Get Out, becoming the first African American screenwriter to win the award. Similarly, Mexican born Guillermo del Toro won Best Picture and Best Director for his work with The Shape of Water. Disney’s Coco, centering around a 12-year-old Mexican boy, won Best Animated Feature and Song signaling clear wins for del Toro and Mexicans in the United States. However, in the light of such amazing achievements, one is left wondering if this is the best Hollywood can do. Where are the minority groups in contrast with Hollywood’s ideal directors, producers, and actors? Hardly present, that’s where.

America is still waiting to see its first Best Director of African American descent, has only seen one Best Director of Asian descent, and one Best Female Director.

An interesting idea brought to light by Frances McDormand, winner of Best Actress Oscar, manifested in two words: “Inclusion Rider.”

McDormand was referring to a clause in an actor’s contract requiring the cast and crew of a movie to be diverse in order to retain the services of the actor. She was suggesting that the women nominees in the audience take to big Hollywood meetings and bring ideas to large production companies.

While the Oscars came at the heels of the #MeToo movement which had shaken Hollywood in recent months, women, as a whole, only won six Oscars this year, compared to 33 Oscars for men.

Among these male awardees were Gary Oldman, who won his first Oscar for his performance as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, and Kobe Bryant, another first-time winner, who took home the award for best animated short with Dear Basketball.

The tragedy among these specific awardees was not their inadequate acting chops, but rather their history of allegations of alleged harassment and abuse. By winning two of the most prestigious categories in the Academy Awards, the struggle of activists and women against harassment in the workplace seemed to have been shoved onto a back burner.

This disregard for abuse allegations was not only present on the Dolby Theater stage but also on its preceding red carpet.

Longtime E! host, Ryan Seacrest, who for the past two weeks had been immersed in scandal over sexual-assault allegations, decided to present E!’s Oscars red-carpet coverage. Sadly for him, big-name celebrities hardly wanted to play along with his questioning, with only a few stopping by to talk with him and none of the nominees for Best Actress so much as glancing in his direction.

It seemed a poorly made decision on E!’s part to continue with Seacrest’s coverage even if the allegations against him could not be substantiated; it seemed an extremely poorly made  decision on E!’s part when realizing the Red Carpet coverage was filmed on 30 second delay, just in case any actors decided to confront Seacrest on his abuse allegations.

Why go through so much trouble when one could simply give another presenter a shot at the coverage? One who could avoid criticism on sexual harassment, someone like co-anchor,  Giuliana Rancic who was stationed beside the swimming pool for the full three hours prior to the ceremony.

Despite the diversity of the Academy Awards seeming suspiciously forced, the evening did have its redeeming qualities. Lupita Nyong’o and Kumail Nanjiani did take to the stage to subtly advocate for DACA Dreamers, Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph swept everyone away with their relatable women-next-door humour, and Host Jimmy Kimmel beautifully navigated the intricacies of addressing  #MeToo and #TimesUp without coming across as too dismissive or too overzealous.

But despite the Oscars’ best efforts, one really questions if the amped-up diversity really mattered in the end. A record low of only 26.5 million viewers watched the 90th Academy Awards, 19% less than the 32.9 million viewers of last year. Seems like more than just a couple progressive shout-outs masking the same underlying problems are going to be needed to save this dying industry.

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