The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences took a lot of heat last year when the list of Oscar nominees had a distressing lack of diversity. As many will recall, the hash tag #OscarsSoWhite surfaced as a result, and host Chris Rock was not shy about bringing attention to the issue during his opening speech and throughout The Academy Awards ceremony. The Academy assured everyone that steps would be made to correct this problem in the future, and today they took one of those steps.
The Academy recently announced who they are inviting to be members, who will get to vote on The Oscars this year and in the future. The Academy has invited 683 actors, writers, directors and other industry professionals to join this year, and it is a much more diverse bunch than usual. The new class of invitees are 41 percent people of color, and 46 percent female. Here is what Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in a statement regarding the 2016 class.
“We’re proud to welcome these new members to the Academy, and know they view this as an opportunity and not just an invitation, a mission and not just a membership. This class continues our long-term commitment to welcoming extraordinary talent reflective of those working in film today. We encourage the larger creative community to open its doors wider, and create opportunities for anyone interested in working in this incredible and storied industry.”
Last year, The Academy only invited 322 new members, so the fact that they invited more than double that number this year definitely says something about how they have responded to the backlash. Even with the new members though, the overall membership is still heavily skewed. Prior to the new class, only 8 percent of The Academy members were people of color. With the new additions, it will be at a better but still very low 11 percent. The female side of things is slightly better represented, with 25 percent prior to the new class and 27 percent with it factored in. The Academy is also known to skew very old, and this year the class of new voters includes quite a few young faces, some as young as 24, so that will also be helpful in the long run.
As for who got invited, there are a lot of exciting names in the bunch. On the actor side of things, some of the names that stand out are Star Wars stars John Boyega and Oscar Isaac, Thor star Tom Hiddleston and Idris Elba and Black Panther himself Chadwick Boseman. Some notable ladies include Kate Beckinsale, Rose Byrne, Emma Watson, and last year’s Oscar winners Brie Larson and Alicia Vikander. Some of the diverse and talented directors who are joining include Cary Joji Fukunaga, Taika Waititi, Ryan Coogler, Patty Jenkins, James Wan as well as Lana and Lilly Wachowski.
Last year, it would be very hard to criticize any of the talent that was nominated, as it was a very good year for movies and a lot of great work and performances were available to choose from. The problem is that very worthy movies like Straight Outta Compton, Beasts of No Nation, Dope and many others were almost entirely looked over. Not that anyone wants to take away Mark Rylance’s Oscar and hand it over to Idris Elba, but some recognition would have made sense. Hopefully The Academy has truly learned a valuable lesson and will continue to make strides in the future. You can check out the full class of 2016 Oscar voters on the official Oscars website.