But with accountability culture on the rise and pressure from their members, time was up and the Academy decided that it was time to take initiative. The move has prompted praise from many corners as a much-needed step towards films reflecting their audiences. Others, unfortunately, have cried this is “too far,” stating that Hollywood is focusing too much on being “politically correct.” Many counter that the argument over political correctness is a cover for wanting to keep Hollywood exclusive and fear that letting more people “in” will take away their jobs. The debate continues.
In 2019, USC Annenberg conducted a study that examined 57,629 characters in the top 1,300 movies from 2007 to 2019. The study was conducted to get a pulse on where movies stood in terms of diversity and inclusion. The results were more than disappointing. The research revealed that the films barely reflected the world their audiences live in. If diverse characters were present, they were rarely main characters or supporting characters of significance without stereotypical tropes. For example, of the 100 top films of 2019, just 2.3% of characters were shown with a disability, a number that has stayed consistent over the last five years. For women and underrepresented ethnic groups, the numbers have only seen a slight increase as well.
Which brings us back to the Academy. While much more progress is needed, the Academy’s bold steps and stringent rules in favor of inclusivity are monumental. The Oscars are regarded as the highest form of recognition for filmmakers. While the Academy’s history is riddled with homogenous recognition of mostly white men, this week it took a giant step toward debunking that belief.