Diversity. In Hollywood’s never-ending story, it’s become a MacGuffin. Everyone chases it, if for no other reason than their script calls for it.
Prompted by the latest round of Oscar nominations, all of which were bestowed upon whites, Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith announced they would boycott this year’s Academy Awards. Thus shamed, Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs issued a statement to address the supposed problem. From The Hollywood Reporter:
“I’d like to acknowledge the wonderful work of this year’s nominees,” she said. “While we celebrate their extraordinary achievements, I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion. This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes.
“The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership. In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond,” Boone Isaacs said in what amounted to a rare and unusual move on the part of the Academy.
“As many of you know,” she continued, “we have implemented changes to diversify our membership in the last four years. But the change is not coming as fast as we would like. We need to do more, and better and more quickly.”
Missing from Isaacs’ statement is any reference to which non-white actors deserved an Oscar nomination or on what grounds. Perhaps it’s not her place to make such judgments. But certainly, if you’re going to claim diversity as an imperative, you should attempt to articulate why.
As it stands, Hollywood’s call for diversity seems less a concern about genuine snubs, and more a desire to achieve diversity for its own sake. It apparently matters not whether those who received nominations turned in the best performances of the year. It matters only that we say, as an expression of cultural activism, that the best performances included those by non-white actors.