People of color well-represented in this year’s Academy Awards
After last year’s boycott, there is far more diversity in Oscar nominations
February 22, 2017
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After a controversial awards show last year, people of color will now have more representation at this year’s televised event.
The 2017 Oscars include people of color in every acting category. The nominations include six people of color, which is a new record.
This contrasts the 2016 Oscars, in which not a single person of color received a nomination. Last year in particular, the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite trended widely through social media. Many actors even boycotted the show.
The 2015 “Rocky” sequel, “Creed,” featured Michael B. Jordan portraying Apollo Creed’s son. Jordan was not nominated for an award, but Sylvester Stallone was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.
The movie was also written and directed by Ryan Coogler, a black man. However, Coogler did not receive recognition either.
Similarly, “Straight Outta Compton” featured many young black actors, including Jason Mitchell and Corey Hawkins.
The film was written by F. Gary Gary, also black. However, the only nominations for this movie went to the two Caucasian screenplay writers.
In that year, winners included Leonardo DiCaprio for his role in “The Revenant,” Brie Larson for her role in “Room,” and Alicia Vikander for her role in “The Danish Girl.”
Not to discredit these impressive achievements, but many were still unnerved by the complete absence of minority representation across the board.
Jada Pickett Smith, an acclaimed actress, tweeted, “At the Oscars people of color are always welcomed to give out awards and even entertain, but we are rarely recognized for our artistic accomplishments. Should people of color refrain from participating all together?”
Ironically, that year’s award show was hosted by Chris Rock, a well known comedian and actor.
In his opening, he joked, “I’m here at the Academy Awards, otherwise known as the White People’s Choice Awards. You realize if they nominated hosts, I wouldn’t even get this job. So y’all would be watching Neil Patrick Harris right now.”
Most of his opening speech encompassed this theme. Despite his undeniable humor, it still contained an underlying message that only scratched the surface of the problem.
Maybe in a room full of actors, comedy was the way to expose the issue.
Whether it was Pinkett, Rock, or any other celebrity who vocalized the issue, the message hit home. Now, in 2017, more diversity has been brought to the award show.
Denzel Washington was nominated for his role in “Fences,” which is also up for Best Picture. With this nomination, Washington is now the most nominated black actor. His co-star, Viola Davis, was nominated for Best Supporting Actress.
“Hidden Figures,” another movie up for best picture, stars Octavia Spencer. Spencer portrays a black woman who worked her way up in NASA in the era of John Glenn.
A movie about contemporary African American life, “Moonlight,” received lots of attention, as it is competing for Best Picture as well.
The writer, Barry Jenkins, is the first black screewriter to have his movie recognized in the Best Picture category.
Actress Naomie Harris and actor Mahershala Ali were also honored for their work in the movie.
Ruth Negga will be competing for her work in “Loving,” a movie about an interracial couple who faced controversy in 1950s Virginia.
Another minority actor, Dev Patel, was nominated for his role in “Lion.”
The nominations did not stop with the actors and actresses.
Along with Jenkins, many writers and producers received nominations.
Kimberly Steward was nominated for producing “Manchester by the Sea,” August Wilson was nominated for his contribution in “Fences,” and Tarell Alvin McCraney, who collaborated with Jenkins in “Moonlight,” was nominated too.
On the documentary front, Ava DuVernay, Raoul Peck, Ezra Edelman, and Roger Ross Williams were all nominated for their respective documentaries.
The list goes on. The nominations are overwhelming compared to the past two years.
Now that the diversity is in place, hopefully the award show can carry out its main function: to appreciate the artistic work that the movie industry produces each year.
The Oscars is set to air on Feb. 26 with Jimmy Kimmel as host.