The Oscars Will Add New Diversity Requirements for Best Picture Nominees

While the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences likes to brand itself as a huge ally of inclusion, the reality has often shown otherwise, with the now annual tradition of #OscarsSoWhite trending after yet another round of starkly white nominations are announced every year — often with stunning snubs that seem to disproportionately involve actors and filmmakers of color.

So now, the Oscars are doing something about it. New diversity requirements have been announced that Best Picture nominees will be required to adhere to if they want a shot at the top Oscar prize. Under the new rules, any movie that wants a shot at Best Picture must include at least one Asian, Hispanic/Latinx, Black/African American, Indigenous/Native American/Alaskan Native, Middle Eastern/North African, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander as either a lead or significant supporting actor.

Also, women, LGBTQ+, members of a racial or ethnic group and people with cognitive or physical disabilities might be required for 30 percent of the rules; a storyline focused on an underrepresented group like women or racial minorities; having diversity represented in the crew, creative or department leads, paid internships, marketing and distribution also might be a requirement.

Would-be Best Picture contenders don’t have to abide by all of these requirements, but they do have to meet at least half of them. The requirements are grouped into four different categories, two of which must be met.

The changes are widely viewed as long overdue in an Academy that has been repeatedly knocked for a lack of diversity (only four Black men and one Black woman have won an Oscar for a lead role in Academy history), but the move will likely remain controversial. Nevertheless, as a few reporters have pointed out, the rules are general enough that the actual impact on the film industry may be fairly negligible. In fact, it’s hard to think of a Best Picture nominee from the last ten years that didn’t technically qualify. Even movies with pre-dominantly or all-white casts can skirt by as long as one of the production companies involved, say, has a paid internship program with a rigorous mix of diversity.

None of this means that the requirements are bad, but it does suggest that they might not do much to address the core issues of representation in Hollywood. These new guidelines may be well-intentioned and could lead to some changes, but they’re probably not dramatic enough to represent the sea change the Academy is clearly pitching them as.

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