By Adam Schalke
The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, colloquially referred to as simply “The Academy,” was at the epicenter of widespread controversy when it announced its nominees for the 2016 Academy Awards.
The best lead and supporting actress and actor nominees for this year were announced earlier in January, revealing a slate of exclusively white candidates competing for their respective Oscars. This decision was criticized by many people of color in the film industry, suggesting that many actors and actresses of color had been snubbed by the Academy. The controversy also resulted in the trending of a hashtag mocking the Academy, “#OscarsSoWhite.”
Several high-profile people of color in Hollywood have called for boycotts of the Oscars ceremony due to the lack of diversity. Spike Lee made several posts on Instagram explaining his decision to boycott, while Jada Pinkett Smith announced over Twitter that she and her husband will not be attending the ceremony either.
Questions emerged over whether or not Chris Rock, who was assigned hosting duties for this year’s ceremony, would join the boycott as well. Rock has since decided to keep his hosting position, with Time magazine reporting that he will instead update and rewrite his monologue in response to the controversy.
This has not been the first time that the Academy has been the center of nominee-related controversy. The same issue happened last year, when the entirety of the acting nominees were white, which led to the initial introduction of the hashtag.
Several prominent actors and actresses took attempts to defend the Academy and its decision on nominees.
Charlotte Rampling, a nominee for her role in “45 Years,” claimed that the boycott was “racist against whites” in a French radio interview. Michael Caine was more diplomatic in his response to the controversy, suggesting in an interview for the BBC that actors of color “need to be patient” when it comes to nominations. Caine also compared their frustration to the long wait he endured before he received his first nomination.
Kestutis Nakas, a professor of theater at the Chicago College of Performing Arts, has expressed his criticism of the nominations.
“This is reflective of the Academy’s thinking process. They just don’t often think to nominate people who aren’t white, and black actors shouldn’t have to ‘be patient’ over something they deserve,” Nakas said. “That would be like winning a race, but having to ‘be patient’ for your medal.”
Professor Nakas went on to say that he will be boycotting the Oscars as well, joking that the cause was “mostly out of boredom.”