Oscars Will Require Films to Meet Inclusion Standards to Qualify for ‘Best Picture’
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences just announced inclusion criteria for any film submitted to the Best Picture category, in an attempt to get filmmakers thinking about representation in a more inclusive, equitable manner. These standards will be applied both on-camera and behind the scenes starting 2024, the Academy announced.
Now, for the requirements themselves: the Academy addressed four main standards on which it would judge new films — the first standard would be applied to on-camera actors and storyline, second to the behind-the-scenes crew, third to the advertising and distribution teams of the film, and fourth to the film’s internship and apprenticeship outreach. As long a film demonstrates inclusivity in any two of these fields, it would be eligible for nomination.
Now, how does it categorize inclusivity? Taking the first on-screen standard as an example, the Academy states a film will be inclusive if it has one lead or supporting actor who is Asian/Hispanic/Black/Native American/Middle Eastern/Pacific Islander/Other; OR it can have at least 30% of actors in minor roles be two of the following — women, from a racial or ethnic group, LGBTQ+ or people with cognitive or physical disabilities; OR the storyline of the movie can be centered on any of the abovementioned groups. Fulfill any one of these, and it will consider the film having fulfilled the standard.
These requirements will ultimately “reflect our diverse global population in both the creation of motion pictures and in the audiences who connect with them,” Academy President David Rubin and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson said in a joint statement. This initiative comes from the Academy’s recent push toward diversity and inclusion in its operations, after its failure to include Black or minority actors in nominations in 2016 spurred the #OscarsSoWhite movement.
Since then, every year around the Oscars, researchers have released detailed reports of the movies lauded by the Academy that miserably fail to include nuanced representation of minority communities on-screen, enabled by the same lack of representation in the off-screen crew. The latest inclusion requirements are aimed toward fixing these issues, but unfortunately, fall woefully short of addressing the actual gap that exists in the film industry today. These inclusion standards are looping in women, queer people, those with disabilities, and people of different ethnicities all together, as some kind of laundry list of diversification designed to fend off criticism, much like what the Academy is trying to do for itself. First, using these identities interchangeably — under a vague diversity umbrella — demonstrates the Academy’s ignorance toward today’s intersectional reality. And second, by tokenizing this representation for industry elites, it’s also creating a framework that empowers filmmakers with loopholes to pass as (performatively) woke.
Related on The Swaddle:
In doing so, it’s also completely ignoring robust small-scale industries and institutions that are already making art centering people of color, people with disabilities, or queer people without needing any push or the incentive for an award (one that’s quickly losing prestige) to do better. These films already exist; the only difference is they don’t exist on the Academy’s radar. In centering the current industry’s ignorance and tips and tricks to fix it, this move is yet again preserving hegemonic power, whereas the need of the hour is to create more space for outsiders to occupy, to create more funding frameworks that enable people from marginalized groups to show their art to the world and earn a living from it.
Even in India, we see a similar focus on Bollywood as the mainstream movie industry, with a constant focus on forcing its bigwigs to be more inclusive — but that’s not the ultimate solution. It’s to rally for funding and exposure for creators who are already looking at their work through the lens of inclusivity and authenticity, but suffer gatekeeping from mainstream profit channels. It’s a subtle difference — instead of creating frameworks for those in power to get away with making a few changes to preserve their influence, we move toward a more equitable industry in which power isn’t concentrated within the hands of a few that need to convinced every now and again to be better.
But then again, a similar case can be made for the Oscars themselves. Do we need to give time and energy to the betterment of an institution that has been inherently exclusive in the past, or do we need newer models of artist appreciation?