Amid the controversy enveloping the Oscars this year, the Screen Actors Guild Awards made diversity the big winner Saturday night [January 30, 2016].
Among the winners were Queen Latifah for her role in HBO’s Bessie, Viola Davis for her work as Annalise Keating on How to Get Away with Murder and Uzo Aduba who took the prize for Best Actress in a TV Comedy for Orange Is the New Black.
However, one of the night’s greatest highlights went to Idris Elba, whose Oscars snub served as a catalyst for the year’s #OscarsSoWhite revival. The British actor made a total of three trips to the stage, two of which were to accept awards for his roles in Netflix’s Beasts of No Nation and BBC’s miniseries Luther. His third appearance was in the form of a presenter, where he greeted the audience with this stirring line, “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to diverse TV!”
The cast of Orange Is the New Black also took home the award for Most Outstanding Ensemble in a comedy series. As the group stood on stage, co-star Laura Prepon held the award and stated, “Look at this stage. This is what we talk about when we talk about diversity.”
“This is what happens when you have the SAG group—a group of very diverse people who understand the work that we all put in and that we all deserve the same opportunities,” Queen Latifah told the LA Times. “That’s about it. I feel very positive about this day.”
While the top three film awards went to white actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Brie Larson and the cast of Spotlight about the Boston Globe’s coverage of child abuse in the Catholic Church, the Screen Actors Guild certainly proved creating a balanced array of deserving actors, actresses, and filmmakers isn’t such a hard task after all.
So why is it The Academy is having such a hard time doing the same? A look at the numbers might help solve that dilemma. While the Screen Actors Guild Awards boasts a multitude of 116,741 SAG-AFTRA members, the Oscars is home to approximately 6,000+ Academy members. Undoubtedly, a larger number leads to being more inclusive.
But, the issue remains. Six thousand is still a pretty large number. So, how underrepresented does a group truly have to be to garner such a cold response when it comes to nominations? Well, the numbers don’t lie. So, follow along if you can.
- In 2011, the Academy welcomed a total of 178 new members, 26 of whom were actors/actresses. Only 2 of that 26 were Black, no Hispanics or Asians were inducted. 23 were white.
- In 2012, the Academy invited 176 new members, 25 of whom were actors/actresses. 3 African-Americans, 3 Hispanics, and 1 Asian were included in that number. 18 were white.
- In 2013, the Academy’s newest class grew to 276 members, 20 of whom were actors/actresses. While the number of Hispanics grew to a total of 6, the number of African-Americans stayed at 3 while 1 Asian was inducted. 9 were white, the smallest number it’s been in the last 5 years.
- In 2014, the Academy inducted 271 new members, 20 of whom were actors/actresses. 3 were Black. The remaining 17 were white.
- Most recently, in 2015, the Academy welcomed 322 new members, 25 of whom were actors/actresses. 3 were Black, 4 were Asian, 1 was Native American. 17 were white.
Of the 116 actors and actresses invited to join the Academy in the last 5 years, 72 percent have been White. Leaving other ethnicities to divide the remaining 28 percent minority among themselves.
Perhaps the problem goes deeper than the nominations. Challenging a majority white group of individuals to move toward more diverse nominations may not be the key. It’s challenging that same group to move towards diversity in the racial makeup of the voters that may begin to solve the issue.