The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences appears to be making a concerted effort to combat its reputation of being predominantly white and predominantly male. Following last year’s #OscarsSoWhite controversy, the Academy has welcomed its largest and most diverse class yet, according to NBC News.
Of the 774 new members, 39 percent are women and 30 percent are people of color. In just two years, the organization’s membership has gotten increasingly diverse. Female membership grew from 25 percent to 28 and the percentage of people of color increased from an incredibly low 8 percent to 13.
Some of the many names to join this year’s class include Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jordan Peele, Priyanka Chopra, Riz Ahmed, Leslie Jones, Ming-Na Wen and BD Wong.
“It’s up to all of us to ensure that new faces and voices are seen and heard, and to take a shot on the next generation the way someone took a shot on each of us,” academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in a statement.
A statement from Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs pic.twitter.com/Nqhgc7sbqG
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) January 19, 2016
Boone Isaacs has made it a personal mission to diversity the Academy after no people of color were nominated for acting awards for two years in a row.
Unsurprisingly, the Academy’s move didn’t come without criticism from people who think the move is a wasted effort.
Scott Feinberg, a columnist at The Hollywood Reporter, came under fire for writing a lengthy op-ed suggesting the class somehow lowers the quality of the same organization that gave awards to The Blind Side and Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
“It lends credence to the outside accusations that the Academy’s nominations in 2015 and 2016 were problematic in the first place,” he wrote. “Optically, of course, they were, but, in reality, no woman or person of color had been robbed of a nomination that had been universally expected, and there were no inexplicable absences among the nominees.”
Um… we clearly saw two very different awards seasons the past two years. I still don’t get how Sylvester Stallone got an Oscar nod for Creed while Michael B. Jordan and Ryan Coogler didn’t. But, I digress.
Whether you feel this new class signals a small step or a large one, the least we can do is agree it’s headed in the right direction.