The real problem with the Academy Awards might be White man syndrome

88th Annual Academy Awards - Press Room

It’s that time of year again and award season is in full swing. With the Golden Globes and many other awards passed, finishing with the Academy Awards, which take place on February 26, there are a lot of things to take into consideration when analyzing the hype around these award shows.

The purpose of these shows is to display and celebrate the best of the best in film and entertainment, not to mention judging who is worthy of winning the coveted award or even just getting nominated for it. Everyone roots for their favourite actors or film, but in the case of the Oscars, it’s all up to the Academy to decide.

Over the past few years, there has been a lot of negativity around the Oscars and the whole idea of the award season because of its lack of representation of minority groups in the entertainment industry. For the most part, a lot of people blame it on the fact that out of the Academy’s 450-plus members, 96 per cent of them are White and 87 per cent are male, according to the Washington Post.

2017 is already starting off on the right foot when it comes to award season because diversity is definitely up from last year’s disappointingly exclusive list of nominees.

2016 took a lot of heat in terms of negative reactions from moviegoers and fans in general as there was a not-so-shockingly predominant lack of racialized or people of colour nominees and women, sparking the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite to take over Twitter and the rest of the Internet.

This years awards have definitely made a move in the right direction in terms of having more representation of people of colour in the big categories like Best Actor or Actress and the supporting roles, but we’re still without a trace of women in the non-acting categories.

Since it’s conception in 1929, there have only been four women nominated for the Best Director category, none of which have been non-Caucasian. Had she been nominated for her work on Selma last year, Ava Duvernay would have been the first.

However, the Best Actor category, and the Oscars in general, have been a predominantly White award show. The first win by a non-Caucasian in the Best Director category wasn’t until 2005 when Ang Lee won for Brokeback Mountain. Lee was also the first and only Asian to be nominated for the category.

Each category has its fair share of issues when it comes to inclusion but the past few years of the Oscars have been a real issue and a reason to make jabs at the Academy. Because of it’s make up of predominantly white-male voters, it seems like an easy blame in terms of who should and shouldn’t win; keeping everything the same as it was in the 30s when the awards were first beginning and there were still a lot of issues around cultural acceptance and the actual representation that was available. A lot of old Hollywood is involved in the voting and with that comes old morals.

Each year, there are more and more films with actors from a variety of different backgrounds and ethnicities, but sadly they are not getting the parts that get nominated for the big name recognition.

Most of the time the nominations go to the exceptionally popular movies that are semi-recent and come out anywhere after October, with the exception of three films in the last 17 years which have come out in May through July.

That goes to show that the movies that are really hyped up by the media and become summer hits never really make the cut. According to, in an interview with The Daily Beast, James Cameron, who has been nominated six times and won three, believes the Academy is definitely biased against blockbusters.

“Your typical year the Academy takes the position of: ‘It is our patrician duty to tell the great unwashed what they should be watching,’ and they don’t reward the films that people really want to see — that they’re paying money to go see — and they’re telling them, ‘Yeah, you think you like that, but what you should be liking is this.’”

The Academy is in control of a lot of what we like, because once the nominations are announced, it’s more than likely that people will be flooding the theatres trying to see the films that are up for this prestigious award.

So this year when you’re watching the Oscars, or even when you’re sitting in your comfy theatre seat watching whatever film you hope to win, make sure you keep in mind who’s choosing. It may not be fair to many people and it may not be right, but it’s just the way the Academy works.


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