Oscar pickers look a lot like tea party members

Who knew that voters for the Academy Awards are as white, old and male as members of the tea party?

Sure, the proportion of liberals is much higher, but an excellent Times analysis of the membership of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences shows the core demographics of the group that picks Oscar winners are about the same as those of Republican primary voters.

The Times' study revealed that academy members are 94% white and 77% male, with a median age of 62. In fact, 54% of them are older than 60 -- not that anything is wrong with that, unless you think the Oscar-picking pool should more closely reflect broader American society.

Denzel Washington thinks it should. "If the country is 12% black, make the academy 12% black," he told Times reporters. "If the nation is 15% Hispanic, make the academy 15% Hispanic. Why not?"

The "why not" is because the movie industry itself does not come anywhere close to representing the racial and ethnic breakdown of the United States. The industry would have to make dramatic changes before the academy could evolve very far from where it is. Still, it must be a little embarrassing for Hollywood liberals to know that the organization that represents their craft and purports to choose the best among them for honors (and subsequent riches) is not much more diverse than a Rotary Club in Palm Desert.

For years, it has been noted that the academy tends to reflect traditional tastes when the Oscars are handed out. It was assumed this was because many Oscar ballots were being sent in from retirement homes. But because membership data are not published, few people knew the full extent to which old white guys are picking the winners on Hollywood's biggest night. 

Rants against gay marriage and illegal immigrants get traction among Republican primary voters because so many of them are older white people who tend to be fearful of such things. In the same way, "The King’s Speech" gets picked as best picture because it appeals to a lot of academy members who have actual memories of King George VI.

Still, it may not be entirely awful that so many elders are in charge of the Oscars. Given that 30-year-old directors targeting the tastes of 14-year-old boys make a disturbingly high proportion of Hollywood movies, perhaps it’s lucky that grown-ups are in charge when prizes are handed out. Imagine Adam Sandler’s "Jack and Jill" as best picture of the year.

Of course, if it were left to tea party members, "Sarah Palin: The Undefeated" would surely be walking away with the little gold statue on Sunday.

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