The Oscars Diversity Problem

We know that the Oscars has a Diversity problem.Over the past century only 10% of nominations have gone to black actors (and presumably less have been awarded to other ethnic groups), the judging panel was until recently very old white male centric. You only have to go to the cinema to see that the majority of actors, directors, and writers in major Hollywood movies tend to be white.

Why Should I Care?

This is a problemnot just because it is reflecting an all white world which doesn't exist and not just because it's very unfair and leaves young non-white people in a world which doesn't acknowledge them, but also because if we only stick to one demographic for our films we are only getting a certain number of ideas.

There are some great movies that come out of Hollywood each year, but alongside those we are plagued by yet another remake, yet another butchery of a beloved book and yet another quick shock horror film that has literally no story.

Encouraging writers and directors withdifferent ideas and perspectives would benefit us as the audience, and a more diverse range of writers and directors including those who are non-white, female, gay and transgender would help bring different perspectives and new stories to a larger audience.

The Wider Problem

Creating new stories and encouraging a more diverse crew are both very important, but I don't think they are the only options to remedy 'OscarsSoWhite'. Whilst diversity at all levels of the industry and encouraging a more diverse team of judges are both very important, something that no one seems to be talking about is the casting process and the idea that all characters are white unless their storyline specifically states otherwise.

Stories that are centered around different cultures and/or Race relations are important. They can help increase our understanding, they can resonate with different viewers and they can help represent more people. But we have a problem when we assume that non-white actors can only act in parts which are specifically centered around their race.

This isn't to say we shouldn'thave stories that focus on race, but it's wrong to assume that these are the only stories non-white actors can star in. When I see people talk about how to solve the diversity problem a lot of people only suggest that we create more non-white parts, and whilst this is part of the solution it isn't the only solution.

Why has everyone got to be white?

Many leading and supporting roles are racially neutral i.e their race is not a big part of the character or their story line, and whilst their appearance may be described the directors and casting agents don't always have to stick to it. So why do we assume that all characters are white until otherwise specified? Why don't we open up casting calls to welcome anyone who could play the part and pick the best actor regardless of their race? Why don't we pick a non-white actor to play a romantic lead, a serial killer or James Bond? I personally feel the best thing we could do for diversity is pick a non-white lead for a commercial storyline and then not makea big deal about the fact that the actor isn't white.

If we want real diversity we need to stop seeing people as representatives of their 'group (whether that be gender, race, sexuality etc) and start seeing them as individuals who can play individuals. Only when nonwhite actors have the same freedom to play diverse, unlikeable and likable parts and be judged by their acting rather than what 'their performance and character says about their particular social group' will we have real equality.