Every year the Hollywood elite gather to honor themselves with a series of lavish award ceremonies. The Oscars is the most prestigious, and now, the most Woke. Enter, the new quotas.
Variety reported on Tuesday that The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced strict racial and gender quotas that must be met in order for a film to qualify for the Best Picture award.
The new rules take effect starting in 2024, at which point a film will only be eligible to win the award for best picture if it meets at least two of four new standards for inclusion and representation. Films that do not meet the minimum threshold will not qualify, regardless of the quality of the film or story itself.
What this means is that the award for best picture is now being judged on criteria other than which film is the best picture.
In fairness, it’s hard to argue with a straight face that winning an Oscar has ever just been about truly being the best movie; it’s an open secret that Hollywood studios often spend heavily while lobbying to win the award. Convicted sexual predator Harvey Weinstein’s campaigns to win Oscars have been well documented; the upset win for “Shakespeare in Love” over “Saving Private Ryan” came with the help of then-First Lady Hillary Clinton. And Denzel Washington once told a story about the corruption of the Golden Globes, back when winning a Golden Globe was often a precursor to winning an Oscar.
(Denzel Washington’s son, John David Washington, stars in the newest Christopher Nolan film “Tenent” which is out now. Have you seen it yet? Let us know in the comments.)
Within each of the four new standards, there are several ways a film may qualify. For example, to meet the new standard for on-screen representation, at least one of these criteria must apply:
- At least one of the lead actors (or a significant supporting actor) must be from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group OR
- At least 30% of all actors in secondary roles must be from at least two underrepresented groups. These can include ethnic minorities, women, LGBTQ+, and people with disabilities OR
- The main storyline must be centered on an underrepresented group
This raises an interesting question: how do you decide if a supporting character is significant? Darth Vader only got 8 minutes and 6 seconds of screen time in the original Star Wars, and only 34 minutes in the entire first three movies of the original trilogy (the orig trig).
If the nature of the story itself precludes on-screen representation (such as the WWI film “1917” which predominantly features white males), a studio can meet the new standards by fulfilling similar quotas in its project teams. The New York Times reports that these standards will be verified through random “spot checks.” But of course, this raises yet another issue: it can be difficult to determine someone’s race or sexual orientation simply by looking at them. Maybe studios should implement a system of badges to help facilitate the spot checks. The badges could come in different colors and shapes, like a yellow star. Wait. This is starting to sound like something bad that happened in history once before… Categorizing people by immutable characteristics is not a good idea.
Many past winners likely would not have met the criteria for on-screen representation:
The Academy stated that it was prompted to make the change due to the lack of on-screen diversity in previous nominees. Here are a few examples of Best Picture winners that likely would not qualify under the new standards:
- “Spotlight” based on the true-life story about the team of Boston Globe reporters who exposed the Catholic Church’s decades-long cover-up of child sex abuse.
- “No Country for Old Men”
- “The Departed”
- “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”
- “Schindler’s List” (This one depends on whether Jewish people are considered underrepresented; they are not explicitly listed in the itemized categories put out by The Academy)
- “Rain Man”
- “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest”
- “The Godfather”
The change was announced at the same time Disney is facing backlash for filming the live-action remake of Mulan in a region of China that is being used for the mass detention of Muslim Uighurs in concentration camps. Maybe The Academy ought to institute a rule against complicity in ethnic cleansing.
Ironically, a feature film about how China is locking up Uighurs in concentration camps would meet the requirement for on-screen representation of an ethnic minority, but it’s doubtful any studio would be willing to risk alienating the Chinese communist regime and losing access to the Chinese box office.