Representation at Award Shows

As more calls for more representation in the entertainment industry gain momentum on social media, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, better known as the Oscars, announced that they will implement inclusion requirements. These new rules are among a new push for the inclusion of minorities. The films must meet at least two out of the four criteria in order to qualify for an Academy Award. The requirements are expected to be in full effect by the 96th Academy Awards in 2024, but will begin implementing them in 2022. 

The first standard requires that one of the lead actors or the significant supporting actors have to belong to a marginalized group, including but not limited to Asian, African American, Native American, Middle Eastern, or Pacific Islander populations. Or, other roles must include women, people that identify as LGBTQ+, and people with disabilities. They would also require a focus on the storyline of these groups. 

The second standard requires that representation reaches behind the scenes as well, with at least two of the creative leadership positions and project teams employing underrepresented populations. This includes everyone from the casting director to hairstylists to set decorators. 

The third condition touches on industry access and opportunities being offered both on and off screen. Paid apprenticeships and internships, as well as training opportunities and skills development have to be provided for minorities. 

The final standard puts an emphasis on representation in marketing, publicity, and the distribution of films. This means that the film company or the studio must have multiple senior executives from underrepresented groups. 

While some are praising the Academy for encouraging minority representation in entertainment, others, such as actress Kristie Alley, are opposed to the new requirements.

“The Academy celebrates freedom of UNBRIDLED artistry expressed through movies. The new RULES to qualify for ‘best picture’ are dictatorial..anti-artist,” said Alley. “This is a disgrace to artists everywhere…Control artists, control individual thought.” Like some people, she believes that the standards are restricting and minimize others. However, others believe the new criteria may offer marginalized groups more opportunities than before, opening new doors for them. 

“I think that it is wonderful that [award shows] are moving in this direction, and that it should have been this way for a long time. If this is something that they are trying to reform to move in a positive direction, it can help exemplify how important it is to include [minorities] in all aspects of life, not just awards,” said Joel Castillo, a Spanish teacher at Masuk. 

“I don’t think it’s a bad idea, in fact it could help a lot of people, especially minorities who don’t see themselves on screen as much,” said an anonymous Senior at Masuk. Many people agree, hopeful that these standards are a sign of real change.

The Oscars have been on the decline, with less and less viewers and record low ratings. In 2014, the number of viewers were around 43.7 million, but in 2020, the number dropped to 23.6 million viewers, the lowest it has ever been. The falling numbers reflect the changing sentiments behind award shows as a whole, with more people calling out the inconsistencies in how the shows are graded and selected for an award. However, the Academy Awards may finally be changing with the times. The new standards may offer more opportunities for minorities, which have been fueled by demands for inclusion, and lead to better representation in the entertainment industry.

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