There is a wave of change in the world of cinema, in Hollywood to be specific, and while the industry at home continues to disappoint, the heart hums a song of hope. The Academy has invited some 842 people from the film industry to join its ranks and 421, that is the exact half of the total invites have been sent to women. This means that the total amount of female members in The Academy has now jumped to 32 percent. But that’s not it, of the new members, 29 percent are people of colour, thus raising the total of POC members to 16 percent. The Academy has recently been battling accusations of discrimination on the basis of gender and race. Another noteworthy thing was that branches like directors, casting directors, costume designers, marketing and public relations, producers, writers etc, invited more women than men.
- The Academy has sent out 842 invites in the film fraternity.
- 421 of these have been sent to women, while 29 percent of the new members will be People of Colour.
- Perhaps this intention to change has something to do with previous criticism of lack of representation of women and POC.
- This sends out a strong message that The Academy wants to include diverse voices and opinions.
Branches like directors, casting directors, costume designers, marketing and public relations, producers, writers etc, invited more women than men.
Perhaps the #OscarSoWhite and Times Up movement (to an extent, since it spurred a conversation on inclusion and gender bias) which have affected The Academy directly and indirectly, triggered this much needed change, increased representation of women and People of Colour in The Academy means that these once marginalised groups will have a stronger and louder voice. Their opinions, their perspectives could play a huge role in not just nominations and wins in the future Academy Award ceremonies, they could set a precedent. Some may argue if this is just a reactionary move from The Academy. That the politics of race and gender shouldn’t have any place here. Shouldn’t a film win awards purely on basis of its craft? This argument would have been perfectly valid in an ideal world where race and gender indeed didn’t get to call the shots, even in something as artistic as film making.
But the bitter truth is that race and gender inadvertently do colour our gaze. We even see films through that gaze. A simple example for this close to home is the polar reactions the Shahid Kapoor starrer film Kabir Singh has received. Does gender and privilege not play a role in the development and sustenance of such a gaze over generations? Even in a film devoid of any stereotyping, misogyny and racism, discrimination is often subtle and it doesn’t come to light unless it is pointed out. Which is why it is important for The Academy to have diversity in its members. Not because they can bring a fresh perspective, but also because they can help ask questions which are seldom paid attention too.
But the bitter truth is that race and gender inadvertently do colour our gaze. We even see films through that gaze. A simple example for this close to home is the polar reactions the Shahid Kapoor starrer film Kabir Singh has received.
In 2017, an analysis of nearly 2000 screenplays showed that women characters received a lesser number of lines in films as compared to male characters. Even in films with strong female leads, the number of lines by men far outweighed those by women. With more women writers inducted this year in The Academy, it is highly possible that such biases are discussed openly. They may stimulate film makers to make conscious efforts to churn out more inclusive cinema. This doesn’t mean side-lining of white or male voices, but yes, the dominance of the said group for sure stands challenged.
Representation of minorities is an inseparable part of the big American dream that Hollywood sells to us. Everybody has a chance of making it big here. The Academy is the coveted prize which holds value not just in Hollywood but all around the globe. This popularity demands that The Academy keeps up with changing times and evolving sensibilities, because at its core, isn’t that what cinema should also represent? Let us hope that this drive for inclusion is infectious, although one can’t be too much of an optimist with an industry where award shows aren’t felicitation of exceptional craft, but mere entertainment.
Picture Credit: Wired
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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.