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The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

What do you think about the #OscarsSoWhite Movement?


[one_third]LiberalAnthony McInnis

Every year we come to the discussion of the role of diversity at the Oscars, whether there is criticism or approval of the amount of films made by women and people of color to receive nominations and awards. Let me be clear right up front that ideally The Academy should recognize merit of filmmaking as the primary factor in determining who should be nominated for awards. The point is to give attention to actors, directors and films that achieve the highest standards of excellence, otherwise the Oscars would be a pointless endeavor. That being said, diversity should play a role in it. 

The magic of film is that it allows an audience to experience stories and characters they could never encounter in the real world. That’s where diversity comes into play. The best movies are those made by people with a creative vision, usually stemming from their own life experiences. It’s no secret that men and women of different races, cultures and religions have wildly different stories to tell. For example, anyone could make a film about the issue of slavery, but one made by a black person whose family lived through the horrors will be significantly more personal and impactful. What made 2017’s Best Picture winner “Moonlight” so good was that director Barry Jenkins drew upon his own life as a black gay man. 

When it comes to the Oscars itself, there should be a wide variety of films being recognized. The fun of watching the awards is being exposed to great movies you were otherwise unaware of. Most big Hollywood directors and screenwriters tend to be white men, and while that’s not a problem in itself, it does lead to a lot of creative stagnation. When the majority of movies audiences see are made by people with similar life experiences, there’s only familiarity with a common type of style and set of tropes. This robs movie goers of a more complete library of films to see. There is no doubt that this year’s best picture winner “Parasite” exposed many people to the many excellent films that come from South Korea.  

The Oscars should always recognize talent, so when there is talent coming from people other than white men, it’s important to shine a light on it. That’s why I personally find it offensive that Marvel’s “Black Panther” was nominated for Best Picture last year when there were other films made by black creators of much higher quality. The nomination process should never be a checklist to make sure every group of people is represented. It should be a careful consideration of what were the most outstanding films of the year that will expose the public to unique and different stories. 

[one_third]IndependentPrem Naik

Year after year, it is a treat to see the glitz and the glamour of the celebrities and the Dolby Theatre. Over the years however, it became more and more apparent that the majority of the talent recognized at the Academy Awards are primarily white and male. As a minority myself, I find myself conflicted at the validity of the OscarsSoWhite movement. 

American films have constantly struggled to find the balance between reflecting society as it is, and pushing for how it should be. Living in the Northeast, we are accustomed to diversity all around us, but the fact of the matter is, most of the country does not see itself represented in a majority non-white cast. When a large part of their audiences are still reluctant to watch Americans of other ethnicities on screen, in a twisted way it only makes sense that casting people of color is a financial risk.  

Hollywood is very frustrating to appreciate because of this very reason, because as the diversity increases behind the camera, the diversity of the people in front of it remains relatively unchanged. While things have been changing significantly (e.g. Black Panther and Us), most big budget or well known films will continue to cast white males in leading roles.  

Hopefully one day we can hope that Americans of color can be the ones in front of the camera alongside women directors who have already been able to make masterpieces in the past (e.g. Sofia Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow). As much as I wish for more representation on screen for Americans of other ethnicities in leading roles, it must be acknowledged that there is a business side to the making of films, and that the limiting of opportunities for women and people of color in the industry is an ugly byproduct of society. 

With “Parasite” winning Best Picture, it is clear that the Academy is pushing for “diversity.” An amazing film in its own right, it was on par with all of the films in 2019. While it is clear that white males have dominated Hollywood, we should also acknowledge that each of the Oscar nominated films were beautifully made and reflect some of the best of cinema. It can not be denied that a majority of directors and actors are white, but their talent can also not be ignored. 

These are the people who have been pioneering the movie industry and making great changes to filmmaking since the golden age of cinema. While Hollywood has catered to this select few for decades, their work can still be appreciated while they make way for new talent in the industry. Ultimately, it’s easy to blame the Academy for choosing white actors, but in the end the real change starts with the industry being open to hiring people of other races first. 

[one_third]Conservative Mark Pothen

It seems as though every year, regardless of the nominees, the Oscars warrant a self-righteous conversation about the endemic racism within The Academy. By making the ethnicity or gender of the person receiving the award the highest importance, that standard by which we differentiate what is good and bad art has become completely muddled.  

The woke brigade in Hollywood creates an incentive structure wherein the operative goal is not to make an enjoyable movie that will remain embedded in the American psyche like “Forrest Gump” or “Rocky,” but instead pursue movies that attempt to make some social or political message that alienates most of the population. 

The faux outrage toward the supposed controversy every year about how minorities are being underrepresented is misplaced and may have less to do with racism and more to do with the fact that a majority of the industry happens to be white.  

The left has this nasty little tendency to attribute all disparities to discrimination, even when there is little to no evidence of racism. For example, is it the fault of an institutional anti-Asian sentiment in Hollywood that nearly no Oscars have been won by actors of Asian descent, or could it be that Asian actors have only made up 5% of the actors in top-grossing films according to a study done by the University of Southern California. Interestingly enough, in terms of the racial breakdown of the United States, the Census Bureau reports that the percentages of Asian individuals make up 5.9% of the population, meaning that Asians are not underrepresented on the screen. The same is true for African American individuals who both make up for about 13% of the population and actors in that same USC study.  

The truth is that these actors who are proclaiming that the entire system is sexist and racist have actually made it so no one has any interest in watching a bunch of elitists virtue signal as to why they are exemplars of morality and must be taken seriously. The Oscars used to be an event that common Americans would watch with their families, but it seems that the vast majority of Americans not living on the coasts have no interest in the social values these actors are trying to push, and them touting the idiocy that the Oscars are too white just exacerbates that distaste from the rest of America.  

It’s already been reported that the television ratings for the Oscars have fallen to all-time lows. It will continue to do so until Hollywood stops trying to get up on its soapbox while lecturing the rest of America, and instead focuses on making quality movies. 

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