Finally, here’s a study to document what we all kind of suspected: the Oscar Academy is a bunch of old white dudes.
According to a study conducted by The Los Angeles Times, the Academy, which boasts 5,765 members, is 94 percent Caucasian and 77 percent male. Only 14 percent of the Academy is younger than 50, and as for its minority voters: Only 2 percent are African-American, while 2 percent are Latino.
Let’s translate those percentages into numbers.
- 5,419 white people.
- 4,439 men.
- 1.324 women.
- 4,958 over 50.
- 115 black people.
- 115 Latin@ people.
Hardly a diverse group. But remember what everyone told me when I was working in film? It wasn’t Hollywood that was racist, oh, gosh no, they loved the whatevers, bless them, but it was the audience, that disgusting collection of foul-breathed knuckle draggers, who forced poor progressive Hollywood to put white dudes at the center of every film ever, unless it was some freaky-ass niche movie about girls loving shoes or blacks being in gangs or something. And the reason so few women or minorities got anywhere in film wasn’t racism, oh heavens no, it was that women and minorities weren’t really interested in making fabulously huge salaries for doing something they loved. No, gosh, they preferred working in the back end of the accounting office without windows.
The Academy president and governor acknowledge the problem in the above-linked article, stating that the Academy “mirrors a very white industry” and “If the industry as a whole is not doing a great job opening up its ranks, it’s very hard for us to diversify our membership.”
But it’s not just a “very white” industry we’re dealing with. It’s a very white, male and old-fashioned industry. It’s an industry centered on a group of people who remember – often fondly, or at least not with sadness or righteous indignation – when “women cops” and “women lawyers” and “women doctors” were creatures you rarely saw in the wild, and it was okay to promote a man over a more qualified woman, or a white over a more qualified person of color, because “the clients don’t want to deal with [your group].” Some of them long nostalgically for those days, and as with the general populace, a small amount of the virulently despise certain groups, and use the power they have to shape a vision of a culture where those groups play only supporting roles for Mr. Whitey and His Delusions of Grandeur.
It’s not the audience that forces Hollywood to avoid diversification. After all, the audience demographics have shifted significantly in recent years (growing numbers of Latin@s, proof that women buy 55% of movie tickets, etc.), but movie demographics have remained doggedly the same. It’s Hollywood that doesn’t want to diversify, and the reason is simple: it’s run by the absolute most privileged group in our society, and everyone resists giving up privileges. These people are not going to yield until something big happens – like, the industry failing, and someone somehow managing to prove that diversification might save it and return huge profits.
But how can anyone prove it, when movies featuring anyone but Mr. Whitey are sabotaged by budget or marketing shortfalls? How can we prove it when every female/minority movie success gets treated as an isolated phenomenon that doesn’t indicate these movies could be successful as a group, yet on the other side, it’s the white male movie flops that get treated as unique occurrences that don’t reflect a lack of audience interest in white males?
How do you get past such a massive case of confirmation bias?