The University of California Institute for Research in the Arts supports embedded arts research through critical exchange

Why are Oscar Voters so White and so Male?

It has long been an open secret that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is a mostly white, and male, operation. But we didn’t quite know just how white and just how male, until the Los Angeles Times’ eye-opening investigation into who makes up the 5,765 member roster of the Academy Awards.


Even knowing this ’secret,’ the results are jarring. According to the Los Angeles Times, “Oscar voters are nearly 94 percent Caucasian and 77 percent male,” with African Americans comprising “about 2 percent of the academy, [while] Latinos are less than 2 percent.”


Some will say that this revelation is not a big deal and that award shows like the NAACP Image Awards, which recently aired on NBC, rarely recognize non-black people. The difference is that the Oscars purport to represent the best in film, not the best in white film.


According to the Los Angeles Times, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences bills itself as “the world’s preeminent movie-related organization,” of “the most accomplished men and women working in cinema.” Therefore, it is increasingly problematic that only certain types of films, and a particular race and gender, are consistently recognized.


“In the past 83 years of Oscars,” reports Los Angeles Times, “less than 4 percent of the acting awards have been bestowed on African-Americans. Only one woman — Kathryn Bigelow — has received the Academy Award for directing The Hurt Locker.”


And, in that 4 percent, most of those roles have not been meaty ones.


Although there is no arguing that both Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer delivered excellent performances in The Help, the problem is that roles for non-white actors remain extremely limited, even in 2012, and somehow the Academy seems okay with that.


Some have written, in defense of the Academy, that it has managed to recognize films like Slumdog Millionaire, which had a non-white cast. They fail to acknowledge, however, that that film’s director, Danny Boyle, was another white male. Who is to say that there was not another version of Slumdog Millionaire, just as worthy, but overlooked because it didn’t have the right connections?


The Grio

Posted in: News