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Opinion

Editorial: The Oscars are decidedly less white and male this year. Is Hollywood actually changing its ways?

LOS ANGELES, CA., NOVEMBER 10, 2017--The ENVELOPE’s annual Oscar round tables series included Direct
The ENVELOPE’s annual Oscar round tables series featured Directors Jordan Peele (Get Out) and Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) in Los Angeles on Nov. 10, 2017.
(Los Angeles Times)

Last year, we applauded when the annual Oscar nominations went, at long last, to a dramatically more diverse slate of candidates than in previous years. But once was not enough. “This should be a trend, not an aberration,” we wrote.

A year later, we’re starting to think that maybe something’s really changed.

Consider the Oscar nominations announced Tuesday. Two of the five best actor nominees are black. And two of the best supporting actress nominees are black. The best director category includes a Latino man, a black man, and a white woman, Greta Gerwig (only the fifth woman ever nominated in that category).

Dee Rees, the director and co-writer of “Mudbound” became the first black woman to be nominated for best adapted screenplay — along with writer Virgil Williams (who is also black.) And Rachel Morrison became the first woman nominated for best cinematographer (for “Mudbound.”) That’s breathtaking, although it is appalling that it took so long.

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Meanwhile, “Get Out,” the riveting and frightening social commentary on race, earned nominations across the most prominent categories, including best picture, best director for Jordan Peele and best actor for Daniel Kaluuya. And those are just the highest-profile categories; there was more ethnic and gender diversity in the down-ballot categories.

The entertainment industry is in a period of tumult.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, whose members nominate candidates for the Oscars and then pick the winners, has been under pressure for several years to diversify its overwhelmingly white and male membership. And it has. (Although, as of summer 2017, women still made up only 28% of the academy and non-whites only 13%).

The truth, though, is that the diversity of this year’s nominees shouldn’t be attributed to having more female, more non-white academy members; it’s really about a slate of great films by women and people of color that tell compelling stories about all aspects of the human experience. That those movies got made is truly heartening, although we shouldn’t forget that African Americans, Latinos and women continue to be woefully underrepresented both onscreen and behind the camera. That must continue to change.

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The entertainment industry is in a period of tumult. Over the last few years, it has been denounced for its lack of diversity, and in the last few months, it has been further upended by sexual harassment accusations and an uprising of women (and men) demanding an end to Hollywood’s age-old casting couch mentality.

The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite morphed into #OscarsNotSoWhite last year. Is it time to replace that with #HollywoodKindOfChanging?

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