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Oscar Voters Are Less Diverse Than the Tea Party?

For background, a NYT/CBS poll on the Tea Party supporters found that 89% identified as White and 59% were male…

With that in mind, did you know…

According to a Los Angeles Times study:

  • There are only 5,765 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that determine who wins the Oscars each year
  • Those voting members are largely anonymous
  • 94% of voting members are White, 2% are Black and 2% are Latino…leaving 2% for everyone else
  • 77% of voting members are male
  • Oscar voters have a median age of 62. People younger than 50 constitute just 14 percent of the membership
  • Approximately 50% of the academy’s actors and actresses have appeared on screen in the past two years (meaning approximately 50% have not)
  • Each branch of the Academy determines the nominees for each category.  Caucasians make up 90 percent or more of every academy branch except actors, whose roster is 88 percent white. The academy’s executive branch is 98 percent white, as is its writers branch.

So it is not surprising that, in 83 years of Oscars, less than 4 percent of the acting awards have been won by blacks. Only one woman —- Kathryn Bigelow —- has received an Oscar for directing.

But the most difficult part of this entire situation is that due to the way the Academy nominates and adds members, it’s not likely to change anytime soon due to the fact that, according to the Times study, “there are three ways to become a candidate for membership: land an Oscar nomination; apply and be recommended by two members of a branch; or earn an endorsement from the branch’s membership committee or the academy staff.”

It does not require a sociology degree to see that it is more likely that minorities and women will be at a disadvantage to land Oscar nominations from a group of “peers” that don’t look like them.  They are also less likely to be recommended by two members of a branch that is 90%+ White and 70%+ male.  And the membership committee and Academy staff?  Only one person of color, and six women are represented on the Academy’s 43 member Board of Governors.

To top it all off, even if the criteria were changed to be fairer to women and minorities, it still might not impact much.  That’s because, in 2004, the Academy decided to limit it’s membership growth to 30 per year.  This means that even if the membership nominations were more diverse, it would take a looooooooong time for the demographics of the entire voting membership to actually change substantially as well.

In fact, according to the study: “The more than 1,000 people invited to join since 2004 include black actors such as Jennifer Hudson, Mo’Nique and Jeffrey Wright. But overall, the group was only slightly more diverse than the academy it was joining —– 89 percent white and 73 percent male.”

This is really important because so many actors’ and actresses’ careers, as well as the image and opportunities for women and minorities in the entire industry (and beyond), are largely determined by a monolithic group of less than 6,000 people, and really just a subset of that group truthfully.  Along with the broader industry, the Academy should probably look into changing its criteria and nomination process (not easing, but changing), as well as expanding its membership if it wants to create a more diverse body of voters.

Do you think the Academy’s demographics affected Oscar voting this year?  In the past?

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