The Oscars: Diversity begins to matter

The Oscars: Diversity begins to matter
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Highlights

And the Oscar goes..... un moment s'il vous plaît. This time it is not just the Euro-American films that should matter to us.

And the Oscar goes..... un moment s'il vous plaît. This time it is not just the Euro-American films that should matter to us. The voter demographic of the Oscars has changed. Yes. The Oscars Academy is no longer the same. It has undergone the changes that societies are also undergoing and this would definitely have an impact on the future entries as well as the nominees. The Academy has driven up its diversity game.

The Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, are awards for artistic and technical merit in the film industry. They are regarded by many as the most prestigious and significant awards in the entertainment industry worldwide. Given annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), the awards are an international recognition of excellence in cinematic achievements, as assessed by the Academy's voting membership. The various category winners are awarded a copy of a golden statuette as a trophy, officially called the "Academy Award of Merit," although more commonly referred to by its nickname, the "Oscar." The statuette depicts a knight rendered in the Art Deco style. The point to be noted here is that the awards are given away based on the Academy's voting membership.

In the past, there have been murmurs, rumours and allegations that the Oscars may not have been fair, after all. But the internet-driven (could even say social media driven) democracy has forced the Academy to change the profile of the voting membership, too. According to a previous report, it has a membership that is 45% female and 36% "underrepresented minorities," in which 2,107 members out of 6,000 were "international." This potentially explains the marked change in nominations that challenge the legitimacy of Euro-American films as the enduring norm.

Women, minorities and non-Americans are gradually being given the vote. Hence, the effects of their votes are also gradually being perceived. What was remarkable this year by the Oscars' standards was the number of non-American films nominated in categories beyond the default "best international feature film" – which was, until 2020, termed "best foreign film," several observers have pointed out. 'Parasite' was the film that drew attention to the redundancy of this category when, in 2020, it became the first "foreign language" film to win best picture as well as, of course, best international film.

We have seen how problematic the "best foreign film/international film" category has been in the exclusion of 'Lionheart' from Nigeria. As the film was in English, the Academy rejected it ignoring the fact that English is the national language of Nigeria. Will all this change now? Could be, yes. As the voter profile changes, there could be changes in the perspectives, too. However, let us not forget that Oscars are all about vanity and ego. Essentially, it has been a 'Vanity Fair.' Far better movies and movie makers have been ignored because of several constraints. There is a world beyond Euro-American categories. Let us hope for the best. It is a diverse world and the Euro-Americans alone don't own it. The Academy needs to be relevant to all for it to survive. Art is complex just like the world. Change the voting profile further.

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