The Economist runs the numbers and figures out blacks are not “under represented” at all.
FOR the 20 actors nominated for an Oscar all to be white could at best be seen as a surprise. For that to be true two years running is, to many, a scandal. While there will be no empty seats at the 88th Academy Awards ceremony on February 28th—live television does not permit such things—there may be a lot of missing faces. Confronted with what is seen as a “whitewash”, many prominent black Americans are saying they will boycott the ceremony.
In fact, as our analysis of film casts and awards shows, the number of black actors winning Oscars in this century has been pretty much in line with the size of America’s overall black population. But this does not mean Hollywood has no problems of prejudice. As the data show, it clearly does.
The issue has come to a head because over the past two years some films with a particular emotional resonance were passed over. The original “Rocky” (1976) won three Oscars, and Sylvester Stallone was nominated (though he did not win) for both acting and writing. Critics and fans alike have heaped praise on 2015’s new addition to the Rocky franchise, “Creed”, which sees a black fighter as the hero. But the star and the black director, Michael B. Jordan and Ryan Coogler, will have to make do with fans’ appreciation and more than $100m at the box office: the film’s only nomination went to Mr Stallone, this time for Best Supporting Actor. “Straight Outta Compton”, a hit film about a black hip-hop group with a black director and producer, was nominated only for its screenplay, the writers of which were white. “Beasts of No Nation” delighted our reviewer, and fans of its star, Idris Elba, hope he will be the next James Bond. It also brought a horrifying phenomenon, child soldiering in Africa, to Western audiences. But the Academy ignored it. All this happens in the shadow of last year’s nominations, in which “Selma”, a film about the civil-rights movement which our reviewer found “remarkable”, was nominated but did not win Best Picture, as many thought it should. Neither its director, Ava DuVernay, nor its star, David Oyelowo, were recognised by the academy.
Fingers are pointing at the Academy’s 6,000-odd voting members, 94% of whom are white. Spike Lee, whose “Do The Right Thing” is considered one of the great movies not to have won an Oscar, has lamented “another all-white ballot”; Don Cheadle, who got a Best Actor nomination in 2004 for “Hotel Rwanda”, has joked dryly about parking cars at the event. It is possible that the only black actor onstage will be Chris Rock, who is hosting. He has already said that the Oscars seem to have become a white equivalent of the Black Entertainment Television awards.