Commenting on the critics with Simon Columb…
On February 19th 2012, John Horn, Nicole Sperling and Doug Smith of The Los Angeles Times wrote…
“A Los Angeles Times study found that Academy voters are markedly less diverse than the moviegoing public, and even more monolithic than many in the film industry may suspect. Oscar voters are nearly 94% Caucasian and 77% male, The Times found. Blacks are about 2% of the Academy, and Latinos are less than 2%. Oscar voters have a median age of 62, the study showed. People younger than 50 constitute just 14% of the membership.”
On the day of the Oscars, it is only right to comment on the voters themselves. The Los Angeles Times clearly conducted some reliable research and found out who the voters accurately are. It comes as no surprise that it is a limited, elite group of voters – primarily Caucasian, male and old. Though this will comfortably support young film critics in clarifying how the Oscars represent an archaic attitude towards filmmaking (“only old people would choose The King’s Speech over The Social Network” and “that’s why Forrest Gump won over Pulp Fiction“), personally I don’t see too much of a problem with this situation.
Don’t get me wrong, I am in full support of diversity and equality in the film industry, but if we were to analyse the head honchos of Hollywood, I’m sure a very similar outcome would explain who is funding the films which are made. In terms of age, I would completely agree that Academy voters should be older people – members of the film industry who are wiser, with more experience and – potentially – more savvy about the awards marketing campaigns should be in a position to vote. Suffice to say, if we were to leave the votes with teenagers, we simply would have Twilight ‘leading the race’ for years on end. The age of the voter should be maturer – and I am quite happy with that considering that the Oscars are so important to the film calendar.
Regarding the lack of equality for women and ethnic minorities, I would agree that it is a shame that there are not more voters who are of a different gender and race. I personally recall when I studied Media at A-Level in 2001/2002, the teacher asked the class to name five female and/or directors of an ethnic minority. At the time, Jane Campion and Kathryn Bigelow I was unaware of and, instead, the only two I could think of were Amy Heckerling (I’d obviously seen Clueless and Loser) and, ridiculously, Mimi Leder, as I was a fan of Deep Impact. In terms of ethnic minorities – Spike Lee, John Singleton and M. Night Shyamalan. At the time, that was all I could think of.
As a writer of film for websites, I could name a fair few more now, but we must be aware of how the Oscars represent the industry. Any inequality is equally shared at the top positions of the profession – but it is changing. The pitiful “6%” of non-white Academy voters will change in time – and I’m sure if the same study was conducted 10 years ago, it would be considerably lower. The 23% of female voters, again, 10 years ago would’ve been considerably lower. It’s a slow change, but as audience members and film viewers, we need to celebrate diversity in filmmaking and only through their success and their acceptance in the cinema, will the industry continue to change for the better.
Afterthought: Ironically, Steve McQueen (Shame) and Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin) are two directors who have been ‘snubbed’ this year… but, to paraphrase Peter Bradshaw on Film 2012, one thing the Academy doesn’t like are British filmmakers commenting on US social issues such as addiction and high-school massacres.