Actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith and director Spike Lee have announced that they are boycotting the February 28 ceremony. The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite is being used on Twitter, and President Obama called for greater diversity. In the wake of the controversy the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences initiated changes that it hopes will double the number of women and minority members by 2020.
Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Goldstein, a longtime academy member and composer with over 50 film credits, argued that Hollywood is a meritocracy and that the people criticizing the Oscars are misguided: "In case it's not obvious, the point is to purge older (presumably white) members and create something akin to affirmative action for new members."
Some excerpts from the op-ed:
The #OscarsSoWhite controversy, as it's known on social media, is bedeviled by misinformation. I have read numerous accounts of how 6,200 mostly old white males produced the lily white nominations of 20 actors this year. In fact these nominees were selected by the 1,138 members of the actors branch, which has a larger percentage of African Americans than other branches, and probably skews younger as well. (The academy doesn't keep statistics on age.)
These same voters in the last few years gave best acting Oscars to Forest Whitaker (“Last King of Scotland”), Mo'Nique (“Precious”), Viola Davis (“The Help”), Lupita Nyong'o (“12 Years a Slave”), and a nomination to Chiwetel Ejiofor (“12 Years a Slave”).
Beyond the acting category, it's absurd to pretend that the academy ignores films created by or about people of color. “12 Years a Slave” won three Oscars in 2014. “Selma” was nominated for best picture in 2015. A few months ago, the academy gave Spike Lee an honorary Oscar for his contribution to cinema...
Why is no one talking about which actors should not have been nominated, so that colleagues of color could have taken their place? Could it be that the current nominees are all worthy? Why is no one talking about the nominations in non-acting branches? Alejandro G. Iñarritu, who is Mexican, won a directing Oscar last year and is nominated again this year for “The Revenant.” Aren't Mexicans still considered a minority in PC circles?
I certainly count myself among those who value inclusion and believe that our country's demographic diversity is a positive good. But why must the academy perfectly mirror that diversity? It's a meritocracy. The only entrance requirement is excellence in one's chosen field. At least, that was true until last week.
Since 2012, the academy has encouraged its branches to seek qualified artists from diverse backgrounds. Change was occurring naturally. Unfortunately, not fast enough for some. Succumbing to years of pressure, the academy leadership Friday unveiled a radical plan to satisfy the PC mob. With the express goal of doubling the number of female and racially diverse members by 2020, the leadership decided to “supplement the traditional process in which current members sponsor new members by launching an ambitious, global campaign to identify and recruit qualified new members who represent greater diversity.” The leadership also moved to curtail lifetime voting privileges. “Each new member's voting status will last 10 years, and will be renewed if that new member has been active in motion pictures during that decade.”
In case it's not obvious, the point is to purge older (presumably white) members and create something akin to affirmative action for new members.