To the editor: William Goldstein is right about the new rules meant to boost diversity among the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science members. The academy doesn't make movies; its members vote to reward excellence in what is, by its nature, an imperfect and very subjective process. ("I'd like to thank the Academy...for capitulating to the PC police," Opinion, Jan. 26)
It's not logically possible to superimpose affirmative action on that process without simultaneously devaluing the award.
Unless it's very obvious that some of this year's nominees were undeserving, then the problem doesn't lie with the awards process or the academy. Any racial imbalance in the various fields eligible for Oscar nomination is the fault of the studios, casting directors and producers.
In today's news cycle and social media culture, there's never a shortage of outrage. The academy leadership capitulated to one such drummed-up crisis, and in so doing calmed the noise in the short term but devalued the entire organization and its purpose over the long haul.
Andrew Dorfman, Woodland Hills
The writer is a member of the Academy's music branch.
To the editor: Goldstein argues that if academy members focus on "excellence" and "brilliance," there will be no need to address diversity.
Excellence and brilliance are not abstract qualities; they are standards created by people with values they have learned from diverse life experiences. The "Black Is Beautiful" movement recognized this truth, understanding that people in Nigeria may make aesthetic judgments using criteria different from those brought to bear by privileged Westerners.
Similarly, the lifestyles and hip-hop music that inspire movies like "Straight Outta Compton" are more likely to speak to those who have grown up in South L.A. than to academy members more familiar with Beverly Hills gentility and Irving Berlin. A more diverse Academy membership can help to correct this imbalance.
A similar argument could be made about female directors. Since 2009 when Kathryn Bigelow took the prize, no woman has been nominated.
Virginia Wright Wexman, Los Angeles
To the editor: I agree with Goldstein that the Oscars should be based on merit, but they are not. Instead, they are based on marketing, public relations, studio power and friendship.
Has he seen the "for your consideration" ads when the ballots are mailed out?
John Oliver, Hollywood
To the editor: Thankfully there's a voice of reason concerning this ugly and irresponsible division over academy ideology and its purpose of recognizing excellence in the industry. I believe it's summed up best in Goldstein's final comment where he references Martin Luther King Jr.'s proclamation that we are "judged by the content of our character rather than the color of our skin."
He spells out reasonable ways of encouraging diversity and not succumbing to knee-jerk political correctness. Wouldn't it be great if we had this informed objectivity and the ability to distill facts rationally in Washington?
Ron Ramlow, South Pasadena