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The 89th Academy Awards—When Will They Really Change?
Park Tae In  |  gentgaga210@korea.ac.kr
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승인 2017.04.05  00:41:56
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The Academy Awards (Oscars) is one of the biggest events for Hollywood movie stars, with actors and actresses wearing fancy, glimmering dresses and outfits across the red carpet to display their dazzling appearances. Nowadays the the Oscars has been more than just receiving accolades. Some ugly moments take place as the ceremony has repeatedly been criticized for lacking diversity as well as being used as political platforms of actors and actresses.

Hosted by Jimmy Kimmel of the The Tonight Show, the 89th Oscars was held on the night of February 26 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. Movie enthusiasts all across the globe have waited for the annual award, and for the actors and directors who will be receiving the 8.5 pound solid bronze plated with 24 karat gold trophy. This year, the award for the Best Pictures caused a great stir among the public when the movie La La Land (2016) was mistakenly named the winner when Moonlight (2016) had won it.

When it comes to the Oscars, many viewers across the world are curious about how the films are nominated. They are eager to find out an Oscar formula, which determines what types of film tend to be nominated each year. Usually, people who believe in the method claim that the Academy Members look for certain types of films to the exclusion of others and that some members vote for movies they have not even seen. Thus, it appears that a preexisting potential pattern may influence the decisionmaking process of the academy, as most of the members are comprised of white men above the age of 60.

According to the Los Angeles Times, 95 percent of the Academy members are Caucasian, 77 percent are male, and 54 percent are above the age of 60. These are some of the reasons why many controversies are related to race. As a matter of fact, in the past such as the 88th Oscars, actor Chris Rock, the host, was very vocal about sharing his opinions—claiming that there were no non-white nominees the Actor and Actress and that the Oscars are too white. With the #OscarsSoWhite trend going on, many non-white nominees such as Will Smith, Idris Elba, and Tyrese Gibson even boycotted to come to the 88th annual Oscars.

Luckily, for this year’s Oscars, TV ratings were up 30 percent in AfricanAmerican households. Furthermore, four African-American actors and actresses were winners this year; Mahershala Ali became the first Muslim to win the Best Supporting Actor award, and the film Moonlight was the first Best Picture award winner with an all-African American cast. Through these results, the Oscars recognized the capability for both nonwhite actors and directors for making excellent films.

Truly, the Oscars brought up its A-game in terms of racial diversity. However, some people thought that minorities were given the award to offset last year’s racial exclusivity of the award. According to the Hollywood Reporter interview with Dustin Hoffman, when asked what can bring more diversity to Hollywood and the Oscars, he stated, “We change when the people who are oppressed force it to change.” Furthermore, Michael Blackwood (Institute of Foreign Language Studies) added, “I think the academy tried maybe too hard to fix things, especially with last year’s results.”

Without a doubt, the 2017 nominations were not so white this year, but that does not mean that the Oscars is diverse. While there was one nomination for an Asian actor, Dev Patel, Best Supporting Actor in Lion, not a single Native American nor Hispanic actor was nominated. The goal should not simply be to make the Oscars less white; it is about making sure that the film industry embodies racial diversity.

Focusing on the theme of unity this year, Kimmel said in his monologue, “If every one of you took a minute to reach out to one person you disagree with and have a positive, considerate conversation—not as liberals or conservatives but as Americans—it would make America great again.” Indeed, the Oscars is an entertainment awards ceremony that recognizes the excellence in cinematic achievements. Knowing how to celebrate and having fun should be the primary focus of the Oscars. Even though bringing political messages to the members of the audience and becoming a voice to the voiceless may have some positive impact, it causes even more political disparity.

This year at the awards, celebrities such as Ruthe Negga, Karlie Kloss, and director Barry Jenkins openly opposed the Trump administration by wearing a blue ribbon that showed their support of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The ACLU is a non-profit organization that “defends and preserves individual rights” for every person in the United States (U.S.).

Nonetheless, this incessant series of actors preaching political messages throughout the Oscars is one of the factors causing the decline of viewership ratings. In 2016, the Oscars’ viewership declined by 16 percent, and in 2017, nearly four million less viewers tuned in, mostly between the ages of 18 to 49. While some might blame politics for the drop, more likely it is just due to less people watching mainstream TV, for despite the low numbers, the Oscars are still expected to be the most-watched non-sporting event on U.S. television this year.

Even though the Oscars is nominating more non-white directors, actors, and actresses, and showing improvement regarding diversity, it seems to be scratching only on the surface and is only forced to choose minorities for the nominations. Also, being politically neutral is is as equally as important during the Oscars. Among conservatives, many people are disappointed with the awards ceremony and is causing more disorder among the U.S. citizens. While banning people from freely expressing their voices crosses the line, knowing how to send messages indirectly should be prioritized in the Oscars. 

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