Skip to main content

The Oscars' whiteness problem runs deeper than the actors

The Oscars' whiteness problem runs deeper than the actors

Share this story

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Oscar season is officially upon us, and with it comes the annual and all-too-necessary conversation about the lack of diversity among the nominees this year. The choices in the acting categories this year are stunningly white; as The Hollywood Reporter already remarked, there are no nonwhite actors in the acting categories this year. (Which is funny since the publication is as culpable as anyone in creating this situation.) This is a tremendous oversight. In a year where movies like Creed and Straight Outta Compton earned raves among critics, it’s galling that their actors aren’t being honored.

But we should look deeper. While our attention is usually fixed on movie stars, we should also look beyond the screen to the directors, producers, and technical professionals making these movies behind the scenes. Those categories aren’t immune to Hollywood’s endemic diversity problem. Digging into the full complement of nominees for this year’s Academy Awards shows just how white the Oscars, and the rest of the movie industry, really are.

Excluding Best Foreign Language Film and the already-lily-white acting achievement Oscars, the remaining awards are dominated by white men. Out of a total 186 potential recipients for such categories as production design and costuming, only 15 are people of color. Forty are women, and only two are women of color. That means a whopping 72 percent of all the nominees here are white and male.

The nominees for Best Original Score and Best Cinematography are all white men

The numbers are even more stark in specific categories. Of the 20 nominees for Best Visual Effects, there’s only one female nominee and no people of color whatsoever. Sound mixing has one person of color and no women. There are some exceptions, of course. The nominees for Best Original Song include such talents as The Weeknd, Lady Gaga, and transgender singer Antony Hegarty. Meanwhile, Best Makeup and Hairstyling is a 50/50 split between white men and women. However, the Best Original Score and Best Cinematography categories aren’t diverse in the slightest.

The most readily available answer for this issue is that there are simply more white male professionals working in these fields, and talent dictates who gets awards, not demographics. But "talent" is subjective, and tied up with all sorts of deep-seated preferences and prejudices within the Academy and the industry at large. Moreover, if we only hold Hollywood accountable for diversity as it appears on screen — the same view Matt Damon infamously espoused on the last season of Project Greenlight — then we're ignoring the root of the problem. Without a diverse community of directors, producers, and writers, the roles for diverse actors simply aren't there — or if they are, they're frequently one-dimensional and uninformed. Occasionally, the spotlight will be thrown on diverse characters, but the white people behind the screen own the narrative. As good as Straight Outta Compton was, it's telling that the only people involved in the film that the Academy thought worthy of accolades was its exclusively white screenwriting team.

The homogeneity of the nominated movie stars was what kicked off this week's Oscar outrage. But diversity starts behind the camera — with the people who are writing, directing, and producing the movies in the first place. Right now, it's predominantly white men making movies about white characters, played by white actors who win white Oscars. It's a cycle of sameness that leaves everyone else struggling to break through.

"But Alejandro González Iñárritu!" some people might be saying right now. I imagine the Revenant director is probably feeling a bit like Amy director Asif Kapadia right now:

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed 18 minutes ago Not just you

Emma Roth18 minutes ago
Rihanna’s headlining the Super Bowl Halftime Show.

Apple Music’s set to sponsor the Halftime Show next February, and it’s starting out strong with a performance from Rihanna. I honestly can’t remember which company sponsored the Halftime Show before Pepsi, so it’ll be nice to see how Apple handles the show for Super Bowl LVII.

Emma Roth53 minutes ago
Starlink is growing.

The Elon Musk-owned satellite internet service, which covers all seven continents including Antarctica, has now made over 1 million user terminals. Musk has big plans for the service, which he hopes to expand to cruise ships, planes, and even school buses.

Musk recently said he’ll sidestep sanctions to activate the service in Iran, where the government put restrictions on communications due to mass protests. He followed through on his promise to bring Starlink to Ukraine at the start of Russia’s invasion, so we’ll have to wait and see if he manages to bring the service to Iran as well.

External Link
Emma Roth5:52 PM UTC
We might not get another Apple event this year.

While Apple was initially expected to hold an event to launch its rumored M2-equipped Macs and iPads in October, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman predicts Apple will announce its new devices in a series of press releases, website updates, and media briefings instead.

I know that it probably takes a lot of work to put these polished events together, but if Apple does pass on it this year, I will kind of miss vibing to the livestream’s music and seeing all the new products get presented.

External Link
Emma RothSep 24
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.

Welcome to the new Verge

Revolutionizing the media with blog posts

Nilay PatelSep 13
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Look at this Thing.

At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.

The Verge
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.

Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.

External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.