With all the hoopla emitting from the success of “Black Panther” it is easy to forget that Oscar time is here. This year’s festivities are especially of interest to the Black community, as nearly a dozen African Americans have been nominated for the coveted Academy Award. These achievements follow on the heels of last year’s ceremony in which Viola Davis won the Best Actress award for her supporting role in “Fences” becoming the first Black actor that year to achieve the so-called “Triple Crown of Acting” (Tony, Emmy, Oscar).
All of these financial windfalls and honorariums are well and good, but they beg the question about how conditions are in general for people of color throughout the industry. For Darnell M. Hunt, chair of the Sociology Department at UCLA, this is a condition he has followed for the past few years as a co-author the annual “Hollywood Diversity Report (down loadable at
https://socialsciences.ucla.edu/hollywood-diversity-report-2018/),” along with the Ralph J. Bunche Center’s Ana-Christina Ramón and other academics.
The report, now in its fifth year, studies the progress made in ethnic and gender representation in the film and television industry annually. In its latest iteration, it confirms that contemporary audiences prefer entertainment content reflecting current population trends (i.e., more diversity), but actual advancement has been minimal or stagnant.
Hunt acknowledges the “undeniable progress” made, reflecting the power of Black people at the box office. However, the gatekeepers remain slow to embrace the changes that paradoxically will enrich their coffers.
The well-publicized awards events do show a “light at the end of the tunnel” of exclusion, as the report demonstrates:
“As discussed in earlier reports in this series, these annual rituals matter because the accolades bestowed by the academies set standards that help shape the types of prestige projects industry decision makers are likely to ‘green light’ in the future.”
For the record, the African American nominees for the 2018 Academy Awards include:
• Jordan Peele is a triple nominee for “Get Out” as best screenplay, best director, and best picture.
• Daniel Kaluuya for best actor in “Get Out.”
• Denzel Washington for best actor in “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”
• Dee Rees, best director and best screenplay (along with co-writer Virgil Williams) for “Mudbound.”
• Mary J. Blige, best supporting actress and best song (along with Common, Raphael Saadiq and Taura Stinson) for “Mudbound.”
• Octavia Spencer, best supporting actress for “The Shape of Water.”
•Yance Ford for best documentary “Strong Island.”
• Kobe Bryant (with animator Glen Keane) for best animated short film “Dear Basketball.”