“The head of the organisation that puts on the Oscars has said it is seeking to “normalise” its membership after decades of being seen as a Hollywood club for members who are largely white, male and over 50.
Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the US Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, was discussing last week’s induction of 322 new “invitees”, the largest in the body’s history. The high numbers of new ethnic minority, female and younger members could radically shift the kind of movies garlanded each year at the world’s most prestigious film ceremony.
“It’s been gratifying to see big increases in expanding colour, gender, age and national origin in our membership this year,” Isaacs told Variety. “The entire conversation of inclusiveness is at the forefront in Hollywood, in film, television, music, everything – and all of that bodes well for the future … Every step we take, we are stepping toward the goal of normalisation – I love that word. This is a continuum. The goal is the normalisation in having artists and films rep society as a whole. Each year we take steps, and sometimes the steps are smaller, but we are committed to continue with that goal.”
The Academy has been regularly criticised for its lack of diversity, with the Los Angeles Times claiming in 2012 that more than 90% of members were white and more than 70% were male. Many believe this reflects poorly on the individuals and films nominated for Oscars. Of the 20 acting nominees for the 2015 ceremony in February, all were of Caucasian origin, leading to the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite trending on Twitter.
Isaacs said the organisation had now changed the way it approached new members. “There had been a limiting focus in the way we invited people to join the Academy,” she said. “But now we’re able to look beyond just the list of recent nominees and invite a more diverse group…”