Television more diverse than movies, as shown in 2015 Oscar snubs


Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

On Jan. 15,  the nominees for the 2015 Oscars were announced, and out of all of the nominations, the only movie that prominently features minorities is snubbed for every category except Best Song and Best Picture. Meanwhile, last year’s Emmy’s at least acknowledged the outstanding diversity in the industry with nods to Kerry Washington, Idris Elba and Cicely Tyson, to name a few, and with all the new shows cropping up on major networks — such as “Empire,” “Fresh Off the Boat” and “Blackish” — the trend is bound to continue.

There’s a saying that movies imitate real life and vice versa, but the world isn’t only full of white people like most major films suggest. Granted, television is still highly populated with a ridiculous amount of white-washed casts, but the medium is at least trying to portray a more realistic view of the world.

Therefore, it’s not a stretch to say television is a more accurate depiction of the world we live in. The Oscars Academy is where the real root of the problem is, because unlike the actual population, Academy voters are markedly less diverse.

According to the LA Times, the Academy is made up of 94 percent Caucasian people and 2 percent Black people, with Latinos claiming less than 2 percent.

Of course, it’s not entirely the Academy’s fault if they’re being encouraged to participate in such behavior.

An example would be the recent renewed outcry of fans over Michael B. Jordan being cast as the Human Torch being with the release of the Fantastic Four teaser trailer.

“It was expected,” Jordan said, according to an article by Cinema Blend. “You kinda know going into it that people are used to seeing something one way, it’s a continuity thing more than anything. People don’t like change too much.”

This is the behavior of someone who understands and is resigned to the inherent undertones of racism in the movie industry.

The aforementioned is only an example of a studio deciding to change a white fictional character’s race. For example, an article by The Huffington Post collected the slue of racist tweets released when fans of “The Hunger Games” books were appalled to discover the race of Rue — a clearly established character of minority in the book.

Several tweets, ranging from “Why does Rue have to be black … Not gonna lie kinda ruined the movie” to “Awkward moment when Rue is some black girl and not the innocent blonde girl you picture” only further prove the idea behind an article by The New Yorker that said “heroes in our imaginations are white until proven otherwise.”

But changing the race of one or two fictional characters in a movie implicitly stated in their source material or not, it is unforgivable to whitewash an entire cast of a movie based on the Bible. This is exactly what happened in “Exodus: Gods and Kings.”

“I can’t mount a film of this budget and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such,” said director Ridley Scott, making no apologies about his decision. “I’m just not going to get it financed. So the question doesn’t even come up.”

Quotes like these from directors and actors alike are common; in Hollywood, it is the norm to cast a movie entirely and positively white, whilst displaying diversity negatively.

African American Literature professor Cedric R. Tolliver said that “Hollywood is a business, and people aren’t making movies for the right reasons all the time; they’re in it for the money.”

This isn’t to say there are no exceptions to the observation. Last year, “12 Years a Slave” won Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress. And when a small poll was taken, 10 out of 14 people said television was more diverse than movies, with the overall amendment that television has to based on their budgets, regulations and biases and that movies — such as documentaries and historical pieces — make up the diversity that Hollywood movies lack.

However, this still applies to the same conclusion: Hollywood movies aren’t celebrating the diversity America so boasts of. While television isn’t quite there yet, they are putting up some very good examples of a different America.

Opinion columnist Nicollette Greenhouse is a creative writing senior and may be reached at [email protected].

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