Academy Awards Introduce New Diversity Rules, Drawing Praise and Criticism

Following criticism last year regarding the lack of diversity among Oscars nominees, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced new diversity and inclusion rules for films seeking consideration for Best Picture.

The new rules come as a means to diversify the annual award ceremony. As with anything the Academy Awards does, it has received a firestorm of both praise and criticism.

Films hoping to win Best Picture must meet at least two of the four new standards for both onscreen and behind the scenes. The new standards include: A. Onscreen Representation, B. Creative Leadership and Project Team, C. Industry Access and Opportunities and D. Audience Development.

Each stipulate that roles must be filled by people from underrepresented groups including race, women, LGBTQ+ and people with cognitive or physical disabilities including the deaf and the hard of hearing. Each individual standard also has a number of possible checks, meaning if a movie meets just one of the checks, it fulfills the standard.

This essentially means that films hoping to win Best Picture will have to hire more racially diverse, female, LGBT+ or disabled cast and crew, or, alternatively, address themes that affect those communities. However, the standards will only go into full effect in 2024. Films contending for the Best Picture Oscar before then will not have to follow the new standards, only being required to submit data on the movie’s diversity.

These new rules come after months of #BlackLivesMatter protests in the US alongside years of pressure from film critics following the 2015 #OscarsSoWhite scandal when all 20 nominations went to white actors. It’s also understood that The Academy are basing the new criteria off of a template that the British Film Institute is currently using at the BAFTAs.

“The aperture must widen to reflect our diverse global population in both the creation of motion pictures and in the audiences who connect with them. The Academy is committed to playing a vital role in helping make this a reality […] we believe these inclusion standards will be a catalyst for long-lasting, essential change in our industry.”

AMPAS President, David Rubin

However, understandably, the new stipulations for the most-sought-after award has received criticism online. Many have took to the internet to argue that the standards are boxing art into a checklist, prioritising a diversity tick box rather than focusing on the quality of the film. In particular, actress Kirstie Alley took to Twitter to announce: “the new rules to qualify for Best Picture are dictatorial, anti-artist, Hollywood you’re swinging so far left you’re bumping into your own a**.” This was supported by Richard Grenell who stated “the new rules are the work of the democrats controlling Hollywood…the award is now the most politically correct picture.”

Critics also accused ‘Woke Hollywood’ of turning the Oscars into a “weapon against anyone who disagreed with their politics.” The new, however well-intentioned rules are promoting the message of making projects with diverse leads for the wrong reasons, an entirely unproductive and wrong form of representation.

Yet, despite the backlash, the news also received some praise. Prolific film producer and Latin American Academy Awards pre-show host Axel Kuschevatzky argued the new rules were important, stating: “I fully support The Academy’s new representation and inclusion standards for Oscars eligibility.” This was supported by producer Franklin Leonard, who suggested that “between 95-100% of films that would have even been considered for an Oscar have nothing to worry about.” Arguably, for many studios, nothing much will change as films will easily meet the standards due to behind-the-scene representation. Some critics even went as far to say the past four years of Best Picture wins featured cast and crew from under-represented groups. Greta Gerwig won’t be too pleased to hear that…

If the new rules make people have a better chance of getting employed, it is in some ways a step in the right direction. However, it is not a complete solution and productions should not be disqualified if they are unable to meet the demands. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how drastically different and diversified the nominees look in 2024 in order to evaluate the full impact of the new standards.

Words by Lucy Lillystone

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