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'Their Standards Are Not Principle-Based:' Oscars Accused Again of Lacking Diversity

02-07-2020
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Oscars

The Oscars will be presented this Sunday, but an air of controversy still surrounds the award showcase.  

Inside Hollywood, the Academy is often referred to as a club.  Its members vote how they want to vote, which could result in politics and pocketbook over quality. 

In 2015, the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite became the clarion call for more diversity at the Academy Awards. Now, five years later, some see little to no progress.  

Harriett star Cynthia Erivo is the only person of color nominated in this year's acting categories, a big disappointment for many calling for more inclusion.

"The pattern over the last few decades has been, you know, a couple of steps forward, a couple of steps backwards," said Darnell Hunt, dean of social sciences at UCLA.

Actor Joaquin Phoenix addressed the issue while accepting the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award for his role in Joker.  

"I think that we send a very clear message to people of color that you are not welcome here," said Phoenix. "I don't think anybody wants a handout or preferential treatment, although that's what we give ourselves every year. I think people want to be appreciated and respected for their work."

CBN Entertainment Reporter Efrem Graham said he was surprised that more high-quality films featuring African Americans weren't nominated this year.  

"I think that's a surprise to not only myself but to lots of people," said Graham. "I mean, many were expecting nominations. We expected nominations for Eddie Murphy for Dolemite. We expected more for the cast and directors from Harriett to be nominated."

"I remember watching Just Mercy and seeing Jamie Foxx's performance and everywhere he went, everyone was saying Oscar-worthy performance," Graham added. 

In 2016, the Academy announced major changes to its membership, which now includes 16 percent people of color.

Movieguide founder Ted Baehr has commented on the issue as well.

"As all Hollywood insiders know, the Academy is a club, and like all clubs, insider politics and favoritism reigns supreme," said Baehr in a statement.  "If they believe their problem is that white voters vote white, thus the solution to bring in more African-American voters to even the playing field, they're simply encouraging prejudice voting based on skin color instead of solving the root issue."

"But the problem is that there needs to be more studio movies by people of color and women, and that is going to take years," he explained.

Baehr also said Academy voters do not have an objective standard.

"The recent #OscarsSoWhite controversy reveals a diversity problem, but the solution presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will not fix their problem, because their standards are not principle-based," he said. "The voters do not have an objective standard by which they all vote, and both the nominations, and the outcry for the lack of diversity in the nominations, reveals the flimsiness of the criteria for what good filmmaking is."

"Contrast this to the Movieguide Awards which avoids this issue altogether because it nominates actors and actresses based on principles that have nothing to do with who you know or what the color of your skin is. It is all about how spiritually inspiring the actor's or actress' performance is."

"The Grace Award goes to 'an actor or actress in a motion picture or television program who exemplifies God's grace and mercy toward us as human beings through their outstanding performance'," Baehr said.

Meanwhile the Christian film Breakthrough received an Oscar nomination this year for best song.  But Devon Franklin, the film's African American producer, admits more work needs to be done.

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