As we approach Oscar season, film fans continue to raise important questions of diversity, quality and art. Notably, Stephen King, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences memeber, tweeted about his perspective on the “diversity issue” in the nominations: "I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality." The Academy decides and votes on the people and projects that win Oscar awards. King's comments raise a polarizing question of quality and bias in the awards industry, leaving the question: should background be considered when evaluating art?
Opinion Intern Veronica Backer-Peral and Assistant Opinion Editor Alyssa Story go head-to-head on this issue.
Even if King's statement was insensitive to this clear lack of racial and gender diversity in Hollywood, his overarching claim holds. It would be an injustice both to the current nominees and to filmmakers of underrepresented backgrounds to use diversity as a criterion for the selection of Oscar nominees and winners.
There is a clear lack of representation of America's population within the Academy; 12.6% of directors in 2017 were women, 7.8% were people of color, with an average age of 63 years old. However, if the best films across the nation are being produced by white men, the world should know that. And if Hollywood is ashamed of the lack of diversity in its industry, it should address that issue rather than hide behind a diverse awards ceremony designed to save face.
Furthermore, if underrepresented filmmakers were to be selected because of their minority status, that would diminish the merit awarded to their craft. Imagine Bong Joon-ho, director of "Parasite," or Alfonso Cuarón, director of "Roma," were told that their recognition came in part due to the fact that they are not white Americans. It would be insulting, demeaning and limiting to all filmmakers who want to be recognized for their art, not for an identity they were born with.
If Hollywood promotes the creation of new pathways and incentives for people of all backgrounds to be able to enter the world of film, we can hope for a near future where diversity on the awards stage represents the entire film industry and every Oscar winner feels that their trophy is truly earned.
This is the opinion of Veronica Backer-Peral, a sophomore film and television production, history and computer science triple major from Pasadena, CA. Tweet comments @LALoyolan or email email@example.com.
While King’s perspective is positive in its intention to judge all art equally, it disregards the deeply rooted biases (conscious or unconscious) that sit at the core of many nomination and judgement committees.
When it comes to the boards and committees that decide how to dole out nominations and awards, there needs to be an acknowledgement of the implications that come from having a lack of diversity, both in race and gender. Consider the voting pool for the Academy Awards. In 2012, after a report from the L.A. Times confirmed the lack of diversity in the organization, the Academy announced efforts to double the amount of people of color and women by 2020. However, today only 16% of almost 9,000 members are people of color, and 32% are still men.
The lack of diversity means stories that are not about white men are inherently not valued as much. While this may not be a malicious attack on minority/women art and stories, the truth of the matter is people prefer stories that they feel they can relate to. To a white man, stories about women or people of color won’t be as appealing to them. While the people who are judging films and television have a keen eye and should be trusted to decide what is worthy of awards, they also need to take an active role in checking their biases and making space for diverse films.
This is the opinion of Alyssa Story, a freshman film, television and media studies and journalism double major from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Tweet comments to @LALoyolan or email firstname.lastname@example.org.