BEG: Academy, Stephen King disregard diversity

Stephen+King+said+he+didn%27t+consider+diversity+when+voting+for+Oscar+nominees.+Photo+via+Flickr.

Stephen King said he didn't consider diversity when voting for Oscar nominees. Photo via Flickr.

Movie fanatics and entertainment fans went online to watch the live Oscars nominations Jan. 13 with curiosity and excitement, hoping to see their favorite movies and actors get picked for the prestigious awards. Quickly, minorities were disappointed when they saw that nobody like them was given a chance at this year’s Oscars ceremony. Despite hoping for some kind of improvement, the same white men were highlighted in the reel.

The nomination list faced backlash by the American public for being very white-dominant and not inclusive of the diversity of actors and movie creators. More specifically, there was a lack of nominations for female directors and actors of color. Famous director Greta Gerwig did not receive any nominations for her directing work in “Little Women.” “Harriet” actress Cynthia Erivo was the only actor of color nominated despite outstanding performances by Lupita Nyongo in “Us,” Jennifer Lopez in “Hustlers” and more.

Lack of diversity is not new for the Oscars. In 2015, the hashtag #oscarssowhite went viral on social media and was used by the public to voice dissatisfaction with the celebrities the Oscars choose to highlight.

The viral hashtag soon became more than a popular post on the trending page. It became a social movement that showcased the need to have more discussions about the lack of diversity in the entertainment industry and the need to build up the people of color already in the industry.

After the hashtag went viral, heavy criticism of the ceremony increased and the academy was forced to respond. It told the public that it made changes to its membership and voting rules in order to “make the academy’s membership, its governing bodies and its voting members significantly more diverse.”

This clearly did not have a lasting impact on the Oscar nominations and winners because five years later, the academy continues to leave out people of color and diverse backgrounds in its nominations.

Stephen King’s recent comments made it clear that the academy has no real intention to change its voting members to be more supportive of diverse creators.

King is a part of the voting committee for the award show and gives input on Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay. He took to Twitter Jan. 14 after the Oscar nominations were released to respond to the criticism of the nominations.

King tweeted, “For me, the diversity issue — as it applies to individual actors and directors, anyway — did not come up.” He added, “I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.”

It is the responsibility of those in higher positions of power to give a voice and shine a light upon those who do not have the same authority because of the structural and systematic challenges that prevent them from possessing it. This same phenomenon is not exclusive to the entertainment industry. For example, in the civil law sphere, African Americans are a minority that consistently face higher discrimination and punishment because of the way in which the American legal system was built. It is the responsibility of their white counterparts who have higher positions to use their power to fight for the injustice among African Americans.

The way the entertainment industry was set up allows white people to consistently be at the forefront and be given the most attention. The academy and those who agree with its choices believe that the “white way” is the right way because that is what they are familiar with.

Creators of color are not even given the opportunity to be put on the same pedestal as their white counterparts, so they are forced to work twice as hard to be seen at the same status with the same credibility. King speaks with privilege when he claims that he would not consider diversity in matters of art.

King’s perspective is not realistic. From his perspective as a white male, he does not understand the obstacles and barriers that people of color and minorities must overcome to be successful in the entertainment industry.

Nobody believes that a woman director should be nominated simply for being a woman. People with King’s position must look beyond what they already know to give a chance to those who are systematically ignored and recognize that their work has value.

Diversity and quality can be synonymous. They can coexist in art without having to be thought of as different entities to be judged separately. Quality can be found in all art, no matter who creates it. The problem comes when those in power believe that quality content can only be delivered by one group: white men. White men like Stephen King cannot ignore the privilege they hold and continue to perpetuate the flawed system that they created. It is, in fact, their responsibility to fix it with the privilege they hold.

This story was written by Aminah Beg. She can be reached at aminah.beg@marquette.edu.