Academy Awards Changes Rules Due To Tremendous Backlash Over Lack Of Diversity

The Academy Awards changes its rules and has unanimously decided — in the wake of criticism of this year’s Oscars — to commit to doubling the number of women and diverse members of the Academy by 2020. A statement from Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs reads as follows.

“The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up,” Isaacs said. “These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition.”

The reason the Academy decided to introduce changes in the voting system is because for the second time in a row, there were no nominations for black filmmakers in the four major Oscar categories. The lack of versatility has been criticized by many Hollywood stars, some of whom even plan to boycott the famous award ceremony.

On Thursday, the leaders of the Academy Awards decided to expand the representation of minorities at the award ceremony. The New York Times reported that the changes were approved at an unusual special meeting of the group’s 51-member governing board. The session ended with a unanimous vote to endorse the new processes, but action on possible changes to Oscar balloting was deferred for later consideration.

The Los Angeles Times published, in 2012, a study which concluded that academy voters are markedly less diverse than the moviegoing public, and even more monolithic than many in the film industry may suspect. Oscar voters are nearly 94 percent Caucasian and 77 percent male, the Times found. African-Americans are about two percent of the academy, and Latinos are less than two percent.

In addition to doubling the number of women and minorities by 2020, the previous new member lifetime voting shall be limited to ten years, and will be renewed if that new member has been active in motion pictures during that decade. Furthermore, efforts will be focused on minorities in the appointment of new members. The Executive Board, which currently consists of 51 people, will be enlarged to include three new members. Currently, there are 17 women on the board, Academy Chairman Cheryl Boone Isaac is the only African-American. The group will also add new non-Board members to its executive and board committees in order to “allow new members an opportunity to become more active in Academy decision-making.”

Shortly after the Oscar nominations were revealed earlier this month, many Hollywood actors were outraged over it being the second consecutive year in which no people of color were nominated in any of the major acting categories. Isaacs said she was “heartbroken and frustrated” about the lack of diversity, and that it was time for “big changes.”

African-American director Ava DuVernay, the first black woman director to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award for her work in Selma, shared her thoughts on the matter via Twitter and she described it as being “one good step in a long, complicated journey for people of color + women artists. Shame is a helluva motivator.”

As reported by People magazine, Al Sharpton, who has been among those urging for the Oscars boycott, is taking the Academy’s call to action into consideration.

“Consulting with fellow civil rights leaders on the announcements from the Academy today. Stay tuned,” he tweeted.

The academy’s membership is made up of roughly 6,200 movie professionals around the world, and it was not immediately clear how many would be purged from the voting rolls by the new rule. The Los Angeles Times wrote that the changes, and possible balloting adjustments, will not affect this year’s awards, which will be presented on February 28.

[Image via Scott Olson/Getty Images]

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