Helen Mirren: “Unfair” To Criticize Oscars Over A Lack Of Diverse Nominees

The Oscars have been more embattled than ever this year, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to stop anytime soon. In the wake of the controversy surrounding the 2015 Oscars, actress Helen Mirren spoke out defending the lack of diversity amongst the all-white nominees. People.com reported on Mirren’s opinion about the Oscar scandal, stating her feelings that it is “unfair to attack the Academy.” Actor Will Smith and his wife Jada-Pinkett Smith have both decided to boycott the Oscars this year, as did Spike Lee, who called the lack of diversity indicative of a “larger systemic problem.”

Boycotters also pointed out that no black actors were nominated for an Academy Award at last year’s Oscars ceremony, and that the voting committee that selects the Oscar nominees is primarily made up of white males. Those who were in protest suggested the problem might be solved by getting more people of color onto the committee.

Helen Mirren: "Unfair" To Criticize Oscars Over A Lack Of Diverse Nominees
Actor Chris Pines and Academy President Cheryl Boon Issacs at the 87th Oscars nominee announcement. [Image Via Red Carpet Report, Flickr.com, CC-BY SA 2.0]
Oscars host Chris Rock broke some of the tension between Oscar nominees and those boycotting the Oscars by joking, “What straight black man sits there and watches the Oscars?” Those who believed there to be a deliberate bias pointed out that Will Smith’s performance in Concussion and Idris Alba’s in Beasts Of No Nation both deserved nominations, but were overlooked in favor of other nominees such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon.

Surprisingly, some of Mirren’s ideas were echoed by Oscar boycotters. As USA Today discovered, Mirren called the lack of diversity among nominees a problem with Hollywood, not just the Oscars. She also guessed that Idris Elba didn’t get an Oscar nod for Beasts Of No Nation because nobody wanted to see a film on child soldiers, and not because Idris is colored.

The Oscars controversy comes just shortly after Jennifer Lawrence called for Hollywood to give equal pay to female actors, starting a national dialogue on how women and minorities are treated in the entertainment industry. Twitter users also protested the Oscars’ lack of diversity using the hashtag #Oscarssowhite, which became a popular trend on the social media site.

Even though the Oscars nominations have since come to a close, it seems the hashtag #Oscarssowhite is alive and well. A quick search for it on Twitter reveals the L.A. Times use of the hashtag in their article about the movie Carol. The Times drummed up the hashtag #Oscarssostraight to refer scathingly to the Oscars’ snub of the movie, which depicts a lesbian relationship.

Helen Mirren: "Unfair" To Criticize Oscars Over A Lack Of Diverse Nominees
Ellen Degeneres hosting the 87th Academy Awards on June 8, 2014. The Academy was criticized in 2014 and 2015 for selecting all-white nominees for Oscar awards. [Image Via Tahoora, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY SA 3.0]
The tensions over the Oscar awards became so tense, several actors called for host Chris Rock to step down as part of the protest, which he did not. Though many seem upset by the lack of Oscar diversity, Mirren argued in a report by ABC News that the bigger issue is the types of films being made and who is cast in them, not who wins the Oscar. It’s unclear whether Mirren meant that diversity is important, or that directors must be careful to choose quality actors regardless of racial background.

Some have also argued that talking about systemic racism is essentially the main cause of its existence. For example, if nobody were to point out there was a lack of diversity in the Oscars, there’s a possibility it would go unnoticed, and the problem would resolve itself.

[Image Via See Li, Wikipedia.org, CC-BY 2.0]

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