The Hashtag that needs to replace #OscarsSoWhite in 2018.

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It was January of 2015 when #OscarsSoWhite became a hashtag that would ultimately influence an increase of 774 members to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science.

That year, there were no people of color nominated in the acting categories. In 2016, it would resurface for the very same reason.

I focus on diversity and inclusion and culture for a living—and yet I was conflicted by the hashtag. I wanted to see a #HollywoodSoWhite campaign. After all, in both 2014 and 2015, there were not many candidates of color that had a lot of momentum up until the end of the voting period. 2014 brought us “Selma” and Best Actor candidate David Oyelowo. 2015 brought us “Beasts of No Nation” and Best Supporting Actor candidate Idris Elba. These were the only two candidates of color that had any pre-Oscar hype that would warrant a potential nomination.

In this, I was a bit bothered by people targeting the Academy for not nominating actors or actresses of color. After all, producers, studio heads, and other influential people in Hollywood decide what types of movies and roles are given to people of color. The Academy does not.

When 2017 rolled around, the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag was less prominent—this due to the six actors and actresses of color who were nominated, not to mention three best picture nominations for movies with prominent story lines around people of color. 2018 has seen a similar absence of the hashtag for similar reasons.

Moving away from #OscarsSoWhite for a moment, 2017 marked the beginning of a watershed moment for women in Hollywood. Both #MeToo and #TimesUp served as backdrops for the courageous and frequent sharing of dastardly treatment and poor representation of women, by women. As the year came closer to an end and the 2018 Oscar nominations were upon us, there was a lot of press around the potential for female-centric movies such as “Lady Bird,” “Wonder Woman,” “I Tonya,” “The Post,” and “Molly’s Game.” As well, there was hope in some corners that men who had been accused of sexual misconduct in the #MeToo movement would be shown the door in the form of no nominations.

When the reveal occurred on that Tuesday morning in January, “Wonder Woman” being shut out aside, there was more cause for celebration than not. James Franco, who was accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct, was not nominated for Best Actor, this despite him being a virtual lock-in just a few weeks prior. Greta Gerwig and Jordan Peele were both nominated for Best Director. 2018 also marked the first year that a black female was nominated for a screenplay award, and the first time in Oscar history that a woman has been nominated for cinematography.

All’s well that ends well, right?

Not exactly. In the articles and op-eds highlighting both the nominations and the progress in diversity lies a swell of folks making comments that go something like this:

“So, we’re congratulating the Academy for nominating women and minorities, not for nominating the best performances?”

“It’s no longer about the best performances and directing. It’s about the best that come from women and minorities. Otherwise, you’re sexist and racist.”

I always want to look at views like this from a lens of curiosity, seeking to understand. As I read the headlines from the various media outlets announcing the nominations, there was an intense focus on the diversity of the nominees and some shade thrown toward the Academy for “finally getting it right.” In this, it may be understandable why some would bemoan the nominations, this given the lack of focus on the strength of the performances.

For myself, I was initially put off by the claims of sexism surrounding “Wonder Woman” being snubbed for Best Picture and Best Director. After all, “Dark Knight,” a movie so acclaimed that its lack of nominations in those categories forced immediate changes to the voting process, wasn’t nominated for either. These are both superhero flicks and no super hero flick has ever been nominated in either of these two categories. Translation: the Academy does not yet fully appreciate superhero flicks.

So what’s the sexist fuss, right?

Why are we so focused on the diversity of the nominees instead of the quality of the performances?

Is #OscarsSoWhite fair since the Academy does not determine what movies get made or what roles people get?

These past two years should prove to everyone that with more quality roles will come more consistent nominations for women and people of color. Right?

Not exactly. While Hollywood must get cracking on putting more women and minorities in quality roles, that is not the end of the story. The Academy must see a changing of the art while there has not been much of a changing of the guard. After all, those 774 new additions represent, in reality, a mere one percent increase for women members and two percent for minorities. In this, new members do not a new outlook make. Over its 90-year history, the Academy has had a love affair with war stories, biographies, and movies that celebrate triumph that people can get behind. Meanwhile, women and minorities are often exploring movies that reflect their history, their realities, and their pain. The challenge is, the Academy has not fully embraced the pictures these movies paint.

In my day-to-day travels doing diversity and inclusion facilitation, I have noticed an increasing fear and an anger from men, mostly Caucasians, around the constant drumbeat of activism for the good of women and minorities. In some circles, there is an “enough is enough” mantra, and in others, a “what about us?” one.

Putting this all into perspective, we’ve had campaigns and movements over the past few years that have been loud and continuous. These efforts are hitting some resistance from people who find them divisive, unnecessary, and misguided. Meanwhile, the Academy is trying to find its way against a historical voting preference that generally steers toward safe movies that don’t ruffle too many feathers. Obviously, there are exceptions to this, hence the use of the word “generally.”

With all of this said, I have no problem with #OscarsSoWhite appearing every year, though I would like to see one called #HollywoodSoWhite. As well, if media outlets want to build headlines around the progress of diversity in the nominations, good on them.

Here’s the thing, and there’s really no way around it. There must be a constant and intentional focus on improving diversity, inclusion, and treatment of women and minorities to counteract the sexism, racism, fear, and ignorant blindness that still exists.

The Academy needs to wake up to the world and get out of their own comfortable way. If others must egg them on, shame them, or replace some of the members to get this done—fine. To those who claim that minority actor X or female director Y was nominated strictly for their race and gender? Ask yourself what led you to that conclusion. If it had anything to do with historical trends that are now being shattered, wake up and think about what mindsets may have driven those trends in the first place.

Final point: I am not Emily Lindin tweeting that I am “not at all concerned about innocent men losing their jobs over false sexual assault/harassment allegations.” If person X gets nominated over person Y because the movement influenced members, person Y will still get work and be relatively well off. Of that, I am certain.

Final point, part deux: Am I willing to change my stance on the “Wonder Woman” snubs and its ties to sexism? No. But I hope for the sake of “Wonder Woman 2” or the next “Deadpool” that the Academy can finally start appreciating how difficult it is to make a quality (ahem, “Justice League”) superhero flick.

~

Author: Chris Armstrong
Image: Twitter & Wikimedia Commons
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Social Editor: Lieselle Davidson

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Chris Armstrong

Chris Armstrong is a Certified Relationship Coach and Founder/Owner of Maze of Love. He has been a relationship coach for 11 years and served more than 550 clients during that time. As well, he has been published more than 500 times across a multitude of media outlets to include MSNBC, Huffington Post, Elephant Journal, She Knows, Bustle, Divorced Moms, and countless others. ​In addition to his training and experience as a relationship coach, Chris is also a Certified Facilitator and Certified Emotional Intelligence practitioner. Chris has also won many awards for his efforts in empowerment, diversity, and inclusion. ​Chris receives an average of 30 media inquiries a week from established, reputable companies looking for keynote speakers, relationship coaching advice, and article contributions.

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Chris Armstrong Feb 14, 2018 12:59pm

Pete Armstrong No, but that wasn’t my point. In fact, I said that in both 2017 and 2018, several movies were nominated that starred women and minorities and those movies made good money. ‘Hidden Figures’, ‘Get Out’, ‘Fences’, ‘Lady Bird’, ‘Moonlight’, etc. The point of the article wasn’t that the Oscar voters are not to blame for the dearth of nominees in years where there’s is already a dearth of quality performances. Hollywood needs to take more risks and look at the last two years as proof that women and minority starring films can make money and get Oscar noms.

Pete Armstrong Feb 14, 2018 12:31pm

Good point about the not knowing what we don't know in terms of trends. I know you are by far the movie guru above what I know, so can you give some examples of movies that starred an unusually high number of women and/or minorities, made a lot of money, and that you believe should have been nominated for awards because they had the audacity to "push the envelope"? (Do you see what I did there?)

Chris Armstrong Feb 13, 2018 2:11am

I agree with you that hollywood makes movies that make money--no doubt about it. If a studio head made movies strictly based on polticial inclinations or to make a social point, they would eventually be out of a job. BUT, there are two reasons why I am advocating for increasing roles for women and minorities. 1) Movies targeting women and minorities do make money though Hollywood suits tend to forget that when they are greenlighting flicks. I can give COUNTLESS examples that prove how forgiving hollywood executives are to make this point. 2) We don't know what we don't know in terms of possibilities. In other words, hollywood tends to go for "safe bets" and thus they don't take a lot of risk--even small risks--when it comes to putting women and minorities in roles in film.

Pete Armstrong Feb 10, 2018 3:45pm

Very well thought out and well written article. I am curious, however, where you get the idea that increasing diversity and minorities in Hollywood ought to be a priority? Hollywood is a business, and businesses exist to make money. Studios choose to make movies they believe will be profitable. Movies will only be profitable if people go to see them. As a movie fanatic, I won't go to a movie just because it has more diversity and minorities. I'll go to a movie that I think will be great whether or not it includes diversity or minorities at all. Why? Because I don't patronize movies just because they support any particular agenda anymore that I shop at store owned by a company because they promote a particular agenda (ahem...Amazon). I'll go a movie or shop at the store either way. In reality, the identity of actors and actresses make not a bit of difference to me. I like good movies. Period. Hollywood's job is to make good movies. Period. Therefore, from a business standpoint, the increase of diversity and minorities in movies ought not be the priority at all. The priority ought to be to make good movies. Period. If that means giving a particular role to a particular actor or actress that happens to fit the mold of diversity and/or minority, so be it. But to make movies simply because they include those things makes no real business sense at all. Finally, I never watch the awards shows; not that I have anything against people that do, it just isn't important to me. That said, as a true outsider to the awards scene, the hashtag #oscarsowhite or #hollywoodsowhite seem silly to me. What are the awards shows for? I thought they existed to celebrate great accomplishments in movies, i.e. acting, writing, directing, etc. It seems these hashtags and these movements, in general, exist to add a kind of affirmative action-esk dynamic to awards shows. To which I ask, what is the purpose? What is the end goal? Affirmative action was rightly initiated to force employers to be more inclusive of minorities in an age where racism was clearly still an issue in the workforce. Affirmative action was necessary because an entire group of society was being detrimentally affected where it really counted...in their wallets and in their homes. (On a side note: I don't believe affirmative action is still necessary, but that's a whole other conversation). Back to the hastags. What is the end goal? Are we hoping to force Hollywood to make more movies, or give more awards to diverse and minority people? If so, why? Will this somehow translate to an increase in the livelyhood of diverse and minority people with zero ties to Hollywood? Will the vast majority of diverse and minority people benefit at all? Moreover, does the cinema market warrant that? Will it make the studios profitable? Do we want to force studios to make movies that don't make money just so people of diversity and minority can have a night at the awards show? Has market research been done that show the majority of movie goers support that? Will they spend 60 or 70 bucks to see a movie they don't believe will be good, just so some guy or gal can get a trophy? I think Hollywood should simply make great movies, nothing more, nothing less. Let the chips fall were they may. #getbacktoworkmakingawaesomemoviesandleavepoliticsinthetrashwhereitbelongs