It’s the hot topic that has got everyone talking: the glaring omission of any non-white talent in this year’s Oscar nominations, for the second year running. Jada Pinkett Smith and director Spike Lee are planning to boycott the event; even Hollywood stalwarts such as George Clooney and Dustin Hoffman have waded into the debate. Clooney acknowledges that the Academy “should do better;” and Hoffman, speaking at the National Television Awards yesterday (January 20), traced the problem back to the actual make-up of the Academy’s voting panel itself.
The statistics speak for themselves: of the 5000 plus Academy members, nearly 94% are Caucasian and 77% are male. Black members account for around 2% of the Academy’s membership, and Latino members number less than 2%.
As the Academy’s current president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs is the first African-American (and only the 3rd female) to hold this role. She has publically acknowledged that the Academy is out-of-sync with the 21st century, stating “I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion.” She has now vowed to take “dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership,” by conducting a review of membership recruitment. It’s a move that Hoffman describes as coming “a little late” – a move that he believes should have been made way back when movies adopted sound.
It was Boone Isaacs’ decision to hire Chris Rock to host this year’s ceremony. But the question on my lips right now is ‘Should Chris Rock step down as The Oscars’ host?’ 50 Cent certainly thinks so – pleading with Rock on Instagram: “Chris please do not do the oscars awards. You mean a lot man, don’t do it. Please.” Imagine what a powerful statement Rock would make if he did pull out? It would be a clear signal to the Academy that it needs to evolve and move on. On the other hand, as host, Rock will be in a privileged position where he can comment, satirise and even cast scorn on the Academy itself. It’s an opportunity too good to miss for Chris, I think.