FILE PHOTO: 91st Academy Awards – Oscars Show – Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S., February 24, 2019. Film director Spike Lee (L) embraces presenter Samuel L. Jackson as he wins his first Oscar, the “Best Adapted Screenplay” award for “BlacKkKlansman.” REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

The Oscars released diversity guidelines that movies will have to meet in order to be considered for Best Picture. The guidelines won’t go into effect until 2024, but they will require meeting two of four benchmarks. 

Those benchmarks include featuring actors from underrepresented groups in significant roles or in 30% percent of the cast, as well as those working on the film behind the scenes; a “significant” commitment to paid career development such as internships; and representation among teams devoted to marketing, publicity and distribution. The Oscars called the initiative a response to criticism it had received since 2015, when all 20 nominees for acting awards were white.

Some branded the awards with #OscarsSoWhite. Kirstie Alley, who starred in the sitcom “Cheers,” tweeted and then deleted criticism of the standards, referring to the awards as “OSCAR ORWELL” in reference to the book “1984” about an all-controlling government. But many others said the standards would be easy to meet, and even many movies that appear to be lily white, such as “La La Land,” would meet them because an actor of color was cast in a supporting role.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

The Oscars’ New Diversity Rules Are Sweeping but Safe – New York Times – 9/10/2020
It’s an initiative that could, on its face, encourage studios to enact more equitable hiring practices and broaden the range of stories that are told. Still, though the announcement has sent shock waves through Hollywood, the new guidelines aren’t as strict as they may initially appear.

Oscars’ Diversity Quotas Would Disqualify Classic Nominees from ‘Citizen Kane’ to ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’ – Breitbart – 9/9/2020
“Citizen Kane,” widely considered the best movie ever made, would not be eligible for Best Picture Oscar consideration in today’s Hollywood.

The Oscars’ New Diversity Standards Are Low. That’s Part of the Point. – The Atlantic – 9/10/2020
They address the demographics of not only a film’s cast and crew, but also the studio’s marketing team, executive leadership, and internship programs. These rules are hardly a sea change for the industry. 

Motion Picture Academy’s New Standards for Diversity at the Oscars Kills Artistic Expression – Townhall – 9/10/2020
Yet when looking over the new list of requirements the academy will be adopting in 2024 for qualifying films there is no mistaking that their requirement of thresholds to be met for diversity hiring is nothing other than veiled affirmative action.

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