Film Forward

#OscarsSoWhite Is Still A Problem, But TV Diversity Is Getting Better

As is the recognition of it.

The #OscarsSoWhite hashtag is pretty self-explanatory, but to be safe, here's the idea: historically, Hollywood's most prestigious awards show has mostly failed to recognize talent outside the mirror image of its dominantly old-white-male voting body. The recently released 2016 Academy Award nominations are no different, with white actors dominating each of the four main acting categories. That's not to take away from those nominees, who are all incredibly talented — but several actors of color turned in amazing performances in the last year themselves with zero Oscar nods to show for it.

The good news is that this imbalance is getting better in the TV world. At the 2015 Emmys, Viola Davis became the first African-American woman to win Best Lead Actress in a Drama, remarking in her victory speech that "the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity." She also thanked Taraji P. Henson as one of a select few black women who paved the way for her victory, perhaps also some foresight for Henson's Best Actress Award at the 2016 Golden Globes. Uzo Aduba and Regina King both won supporting actress Emmys last year as well, for a limited series and drama series, respectively. While those victories don't suddenly mean that TV doesn't have a diversity problem anymore, its nomination field is at least becoming much more varied than the Oscars.


Taking a wider look at the TV landscape, a higher emphasis in general has been placed on producing shows that tell stories from more diverse perspectives. New series such as Black-ish and Fresh Off the Boat are high-quality television that wouldn't have made it onto the small screen a decade ago. Reboots of old favorites such as 24 are actively seeking non-white actors to fill the lead roles. Females are getting the chance to play the dark, complex roles exclusively reserved for brooding men in the Golden Age of Television. It shouldn't have taken so long, but the attitude has changed for the better.

Of the non-white creative talent not represented in this year's Oscar nominees, there's Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation), Michael B. Jordan (Creed), Benicio del Toro (Sicario), Tessa Thompson (Creed), Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton), and Will Smith (Concussion), to name a few. Straight Outta Compton and Creed were also best picture snubs. As the Academy voting body is roughly 93 percent white and 76 percent male, it's not difficult to draw some assumptions about why all of this year's acting nominees are white. The group claims it's making an effort to diversify the makeup of its voters, but if there were any changes ahead of this year's nominations, it hasn't happened.

Maybe it's time to get more aggressive and follow the example of TV's recent track record.

Cover image: Netflix US & Canada via YouTube


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