An important discussion is being had about the lack of diversity in this year’s Oscar nominees, but there’s a hidden irony beneath the surface—the entire construct of the Oscars, and of most awards shows, is totally undemocratic in the first place. The process consists of a lot of very rich people spending a whole bunch of money to tell you which films are “important” each year. This system is entrenched, and even when they make the positive step of including actors and filmmakers of color in their nominations, that central flaw will go unchanged. For example, why did Fox Searchlight spend $17.5 million purchasing the rights to a film about the Nat Turner slave rebellion yesterday? Partly because the film is good, sure, but partly because they know they can market the hell out of it in 2016 and use the backlash against this year’s nomination white-out to make a serious run at Best Picture…and best actor, and best director, and etc.
The approach, even for movies that have broader representation, is cynical. We’ll see cosmetic changes in 2016—and that’s great, and this year’s protests needed to happen—but we won’t see the kind of structural change that would truly promote filmmaking diversity, in terms of race, gender, and socioeconomic status. Money will always dominate, and as such, a certain shallowness will prevail among the Oscar nominees.
Danny Glover had some thoughts on that topic, and even arrived at what might be the best argument I’ve heard yet: Just do away with award shows altogether.
“It doesn’t touch the real lives of people,” he said. “We don’t find movies that tell us about the everyday survival of people, how they survive conflict, how they build families, communities…we don’t see those kind of movies here. We have to talk about another process: the democratization of making movies. Not 15 men deciding what you’re going to see. Fifteen men saying, ‘You’re going to see this movie this year and you’re going to see this movie.’”
Until we address what he calls the “narrow narrative,” nothing of real importance will change. The closest we came was in the ‘70s, and perhaps a decade or two earlier internationally, but the studio system prevailed, and a certain amount of art has been lost as a result. Watch the clip above, and read the full story on Variety here.