Hollywood has a guilty conscience, and for some very good reasons.
The industry has done a terrible, awful, no good job of letting all voices be heard over the years. That’s true in front of the camera, behind the scenes and in the corridors of power. The statistics routinely bear this out, and only recently have we seen signs of genuine change.
Now, caught between a rock and a Marxist hard place, the industry finally buckled. And oh, what a disaster it’s brought upon itself.
— The Hill (@thehill) September 9, 2020
For the 94th and 95th Oscars ceremonies, scheduled for 2022 and 2023, a film will submit a confidential Academy Inclusion Standards form to be considered for best picture. Beginning in 2024, for the 96th Oscars, a film submitting for best picture will need to meet the inclusion thresholds by meeting two of the four standards.
All other Academy categories will keep their current eligibility requirements.
What are the specifics? The new rules oversee the diversity quotient of actors on screen, the themes in play and other pivotal elements. For example, to meet the “On-Screen Representation” quota, a film must have “at least one of the lead actors or significant supporting actors … from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group.”
• Black/African American
• Indigenous/Native American/Alaskan Native
• Middle Eastern/North African
• Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
• Other underrepresented race or ethnicity
There’s much, much more in the new rules, but you get the idea.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences just created a nightmarish maze impacting any production seeking Oscar glory. The new rules do much more than that, though. Here are six reasons why the diversity manifesto is a debacle of the first order:
It Creates a Two-Tiered Film System
It’s obvious that some movies are meant for awards season while others exist to sell tickets by the fistful. Yet many films manage to do both. Think “Black Panther” and “Mad Max: Fury Road,” to name but two recent examples.
Now, you’ll see Hollywood productions likely give up on Oscar consideration and just tell the stories they want to tell. Oscar night will be even more heavily tilted to “Oscar bait” films, leaving populist stories behind.
Here’s betting more than a few directors balk at the rules, diversity quotas be darned. And these projects won’t get so much as a single Best Picture vote, no matter the quality.
It Puts the Focus on Diversity, Not Artistic Merit
Imagine the hoops future productions will jump through to meet all the necessary quotas. The average film production must juggle dozens of precarious elements as is, from casting the right stars to raising the necessary funds. Other factors include on-set creative differences, marketing strategies and release date consideration.
Adding diversity rules on top of these existing elements will make stress levels soar across the industry.
Indie film studios may face a bigger worry. Some of the new requirements demand considerable cash to achieve, including paid internships for marginalized communities. These smaller productions proceed under very tight budgets as is.
What happens now?
Can we all remember why the movies are made in the first place? To entertain, enlighten and remind us of the human condition. It’s why we love movies so dearly in the first place.
It’s a Band Aid That Won’t Heal the Industry
We will see more diversity as a result of the new rules. There’s little doubt of that. Will that fix the problem? Will a bigoted director now see people of color in a new, revealing light? What if these films tank at the box office and miss their Oscar chances, too? Who will the studios blame? Forcing diversity doesn’t change hearts and minds. Heck, it might even harden some.
Conservatives and Christians Get Left Out (Again)
Conservatives are the most marginalized group in Hollywood, but the new rules don’t even mention them despite year of undeniable bias against them. If the industry is trying to correct historical wrongs, protecting conservatives would be a marvelous place to start.
And what about Christians? Why aren’t they considered a minority or a group worthy of protection? How many times do Hollywood movies depict them in an unflattering light? How many Christian stars keep their views to themselves for fear of reprisals? Consider the roadblocks a movie like “Unplanned” had to hurdle just to reach theaters nationwide.
This critic doesn’t want either group to become a “protected class,” but if the industry is going down this road it’s absurd not to consider them under the new system .
Only Certain Kinds of Stories Will Be Told
Hollywood already has a strong bias when it comes to which stories get the big screen treatment. A saga about climate change and its devastating effect on the planet? “We love itI Let’s get Leo on board as an executive producer.”
What about a Venezuelan family struggling to survive during Hugo Chavez’s regime? “Yeah, that’s not gonna work for us, but thanks for sharing your treatment with us…”
Now, the demarcation line will be more obvious, more severe. Why would a screenwriter even bother pitching a serious, Oscar-bait narrative that doesn’t align with a progressive world view?
Woke Oscar Voting Just Got a Seal of Approval
Politics often rears its ugly head when its time for Oscar voting. It’s why Michael Moore won an Oscar before Martin Scorsese.
Did the project send the “proper” message? Were the right people entertained? Did the story slam the usual suspects?
Now, the Oscar system is permanently altered due to the diversity demands. It’s less about artistry and more about checking boxes. That will embolden voters to be more woke, more progressive with their selections. And, in the process, movie goers will tune out on Oscar night in even greater numbers.