Cheryl Boone Isaacs calls for more diversity within the Academy’s voting blocs


As we discussed earlier, Chris Rock is currently feeling the pressure to possibly pull out of hosting the Academy Awards. Also feeling pressure? Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the president of the Academy and an African-American woman (the first African-American woman to hold that position). Cheryl was openly critical of her organization last year when the #OscarsSoWhite debacle first broke, but now it’s the second year in a row with no actors of color up for any awards and with all of the Best Picture nominees being films about white people. Boone Isaacs released a statement last night about the ongoing controversy:

“I’d like to acknowledge the wonderful work of this year’s nominees. While we celebrate their extraordinary achievements, I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion. This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes. The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership. In the coming days and weeks we will conduct a review of our membership recruitment in order to bring about much-needed diversity in our 2016 class and beyond. As many of you know, we have implemented changes to diversify our membership in the last four years. But the change is not coming as fast as we would like. We need to do more, and better and more quickly.

“This isn’t unprecedented for the Academy. In the ‘60s and ‘70s it was about recruiting younger members to stay vital and relevant. In 2016, the mandate is inclusion in all of its facets: gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. We recognize the very real concerns of our community, and I so appreciate all of you who have reached out to me in our effort to move forward together.”

[From USA Today]

My thought: she’s doing what she can do. She’s not in charge of who gets hired for what project, and she’s not the face of diversity at a studio level. But she can change the makeup of the Academy voters and she can change the way minorities are represented within the Academy. I would also make a suggestion that Boone Isaacs put her finger on the scale about some things, and actively participate in some Oscar campaigns for more diverse films, like she could host Academy screenings for films that are more diverse and give those films the stamp of approval, you know?

Meanwhile, David Oyelowo presented Boone Isaacs with an award yesterday for MLK Day. Oyelowo was notably snubbed for an Oscar last year for his work as Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, and he had harsh words about the Academy (not really Boone Isaacs specifically). Some highlights:

“The Academy has a problem. It’s a problem that needs to be solved. A year ago, I did a film called Selma, and after the Academy Awards, Cheryl invited me to her office to talk about what went wrong then. We had a deep and meaningful [conversation]. For 20 opportunities to celebrate actors of color, actresses of color, to be missed last year is one thing; for that to happen again this year is unforgivable… The reason why the Oscars are so important is because it is the zenith, it is the epitome, it is the height of celebration of artistic endeavor within the filmmaking community. We grow up aspiring, dreaming, longing to be accepted into that august establishment because it is the height of excellence. I would like to walk away and say it doesn’t matter, but it does, because that acknowledgement changes the trajectory of your life, your career, and the culture of the world we live in… This institution doesn’t reflect its president and it doesn’t reflect this room. I am an Academy member and it doesn’t reflect me, and it doesn’t reflect this nation.”

[From The Hollywood Reporter]

That made my chest hurt. David really did want an Oscar nomination. Despite what people say, everyone really does want the nomination. They want to be acknowledged by the most prestigious film organization in the world. They want to feel like their voice, their art, their story is being represented. And for a second year in a row, they were told to suck it.

Photos courtesy of Getty, WENN.

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61 Responses to “Cheryl Boone Isaacs calls for more diversity within the Academy’s voting blocs”

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  1. Hawkeye says:

    David deserved that nomination. I will always be salty that he was snubbed but Bradley Cooper got a nomination for that abomination called American Sniper.

    • Denisemich says:

      I didn’t think David was that great in Selma. I don’t think he is that great of an actor. But even if he was nominated, he was never going to win. What are we really complaining about? The opportunities are not there, so the performances are not great. Acknowledging performances that are black but not necessarily good enough to win an award is devaluing and not improving the whole thing.

      Chewy was nominated and should have actually been in contention for 12 years a slave. He was much better than david in Selma …. Denzel was nominated for Malcom X and didn’t win but he was GREAT.

      I am also annoyed that we down play the fact that this year and last year a Mexican, non-white, director was nominated..

      I am not saying that the Oscars are not a white male game but what does this screaming change. Stop watching the Oscar show, Stop giving credence to Oscar awards and nominations. Value the SAG and DGA that are about inclusion.

      The oscars are a popularity contest on most occasions. Why are we fighting about an award that is rarely about GREAT work.

      • Sid says:

        I agree, I didn’t think Selma was great either and I don’t think David was that good either. He’s right what he says here but I’ve found him to have a quite a haughty and entitled attitude as of late with other stuff.

        As for last year, it’s annoying Cooper was nominated when IMO it should’ve been Jake Gyllenhaal for nightcrawler. Not David.

      • Greenieweenie says:

        He should’ve gotten a nom. To me, the travesty of last year was the hokey Cumberbatch movie. It was so cliche in parts! I hated that one moronic scene where of course there’s a completely unnecessary dramatic countdown to some completely cliche deadline and at the last minute…solved! Eureka! Sorry, lazy writing. Lazy script. Lazy devices. Good emoting, sure, but NOT a cut above or even equal to Selma.

        But hey. White males can afford to be mediocre-to-good. It’s everyone else that can’t.

      • lisa says:

        last year i thought the two best performances in any acting category were gyllenhaal in night crawler and timothy sprall in mr turner and neither was nominated

        i can’t say david should have been nominated before either of them

      • Mellie says:

        Yes, yes, yes!! I agree about Selma, it just wasn’t that great. And I completely agree about 12 years a slave. Now that was one amazing movie. It’s unfortunate the roles aren’t there for all races, but at the end of the day it is about money. That crazy Aunt from the Fresh Prince has a point as well, there are a lot more important things going on in the world than a bunch of millionaires squabbling over a statue. You are some of the lucky people on the earth that are able to do what you love every day.

      • Sam says:

        But that goes to another major issue with POC and awards. They generally only win when they play roles that fit neatly into stereotypes. 12 Years a Slave was an amazing film, but a lot of people thought it was slightly weird that a slave movie won so much, whereas Selma, a movie about black people fighting for equality, got almost nothing. Denzel didn’t get a Best Actor award until he played a thuggish dirty cop. Halle Berry won for playing a low-income single mother. Monqiue won her’s for playing an abusive welfare leech. The last 3 black women to win Best Supporting Actress won it, in order, for the roles of Welfare Mother, Maid and Slave. That’s part of the issue too. POC don’t just deserve diversity in awards, we deserve diversity in roles too. But right now, it’s a catch 22. If you want to be a serious actor with serious award contention, you’re probably going to have to play a role that plays to some kind of stereotype about you.

    • tracking says:


    • Alex says:

      understatement ugh. Esp with the subject matter of American Sniper just made me even more salty

  2. Little Darling says:

    I have to say I’m really proud and happy that so many people are taking note of this and truly taking a stand sometimes that’s the only way for real change to occur.

  3. lowercaselois says:

    I have pulled out from watching the Oscars for my own reasons. I just watch the red carpet for the gowns and then watch the hosts monolog. The rest is a bore. IMO it is award show on who campaigned the hardest to get on the ballot. It really isn’t about outstanding performances.

    • Wentworth Miller says:

      I can’t say that I’ve ever actually watch any award show. I watch things like the red carpet, for the fashions and that’s about it.

  4. Freebunny says:

    First the Oscars are not the epitome of anything and certainly not art.
    Then, the voting system must certainly be changed.
    Third there’s too much money in the Oscar race, untill the small indie prods have achance to win or get a nom, it will be hard to have a real diversity.

  5. aims says:

    My feelings maybe simplistic, but it hurts my heart that talented and brilliant black actors are being overlooked while white actors who give mediocre performances are getting praise. There’s something very wrong there. This shows the bigger picture. That there is still in, 2016 terrible inequality. It utterly depressing.

    • Sam says:

      That’s the issue. It’s not that people are clamoring for tokenism. God knows, I don’t ever expect Tyler Perry to get a directing nomination, nor would I expect Kevin Hart to get one for acting. People act as though there is a dearth of talented POC out there, when that’s just false. They’re out there all the time. At this point, you have to be willfully ignorant to avoid noticing them. And that’s really what it is.

    • Hawkeye says:

      +1, aims.

    • QQ says:

      Everything you said aims

    • AlmondJoy says:

      And that’s pretty much it in a nutshell 😔

  6. Ctkat1 says:

    The Academy has to change- she’s been trying to admit as many new members as she can, but change that way will be painfully slow: 180 new members doesn’t change the voting of a 6000 member Academy. They need to restrict voting rights to those members who are actively working in the film industry, take the voting rights away from the old white guys who haven’t worked in the industry in decades (which is easily over half of the Academy), and then admit 1000 or so new voting members who are truly diverse. Which means each branch should be balanced in terms of race and gender. Then we can see which films and performances get nominated.

    • Don't kill me I'm French says:

      I don’t buy that the ageism is the adequate answer

    • Mia4s says:

      But go back and look at the nominees in 2009, 2013, and 2014 before she even made the additions. Far more diverse than the past two years!

      I get why there is upset but I’m not sure people are understanding what a subjective group this is. Did projects with people of colour have merit this year? Absolutely! Do the Oscars really have anything to do with merit?…Nope!

      • Greenieweenie says:

        No matter how you frame it–whether they’re about merit or money or social networking or who woos whom–the outcome is unbalanced. Whatever system is in place, it needs to be checked and balanced. In the meantime, that’s what affirmative action is for. You reserve a freaking spot for a non-white actor (or God forbid a female in a category not specific to females). And that’s fair, because those are the mechanisms you use when you’re trying to readjust a permanent imbalance.

      • Mia4s says:

        Check and balance the Academy Awards? Ha! Good luck with that!

        And no way should they institute affirmative action for acting awards. For financing of films or directing, executive, and technical jobs? Sure, that might have some utility. Get people the job experience and clout to make changes.

        But for “best actor” voting? Yikes, how patronizing to every POC who has ever won the award. Take a look at member demographics and the weighted voting. That’s where change can be made without sticking every POC winner to come with a “well…sort of” after their award.

  7. Sam says:

    I’ll always feel bad for David. I kind of agreed that Selma had directing issues and formulaic issues, but David was extraordinary in that film. It genuinely felt like you were watching King himself. And isn’t that what acting is supposed to be about – transformation and making the viewer believe they are watching somebody else? Especially a historical figure who had contemporaries who are still alive. I will never not feel bad for that man, ever.

    • Freebunny says:

      I agree, David was the best thing about Selma which is a very average movie telling a very important story.

    • Josefina says:

      Yup. I insist, Selma really was a carbon copy of The Imitation Game. Formulaic, predictable, oscar-baity, average, but lead by great performances. David and Carmen were truly fantastic. For me, those 2 performances (as well as Ben’s and Kiera’s) were the only things truly remarkable of those movies, and deserving of a nom. But of course TIG swept the Oscar noms because it’s about white people in WWII.

  8. Don't kill me I'm French says:

    The Academy Award members are less 7000 whereas ( for example) SAG has 120,000 members .
    The AA org needs to have more members from other countries because the diversity is not just a skin color but also other cultures ( Hispanic,Asian,African,European,Middle Eastern …)

  9. Lizzie McGuire says:

    Cheryl Boone is not completely at fault here, she’s maybe half of it. She could be talking to studios, Academy members & what not. But I agree there needs to be a change, they need to start acknowledging the issues.

  10. QQ says:

    OOF David Oyelowo Made me scrunch my face hard! OOF

  11. NUTBALLS says:

    They could bring diversity by capping membership at 20 years. That’s plenty of time to influence voting and keep fresh, young blood coming into the Academy who will reflect the changing times.

    I’m particularly angered by Oyelowo’s snub last year and Michael B. Jordan’s this year. Both were well deserving of a nod, more than Cumberbatch last year and Hardy this year.

    • lucy2 says:

      I like the idea changing the lifetime membership. Maybe it could be something you have to reapply for every few years, and if you are no longer active in the industry, you don’t get to keep voting.

  12. Alicia says:

    Over the last 15 Oscars, 15% of the acting winners and 10% of the nominees have been black. Both numbers are pretty proportional to the black population in the U.S. (which is about 13%), so why the outrage?

    • Sam says:

      Except when you actual look at those numbers, they tell a different story. Among POC, there are generally a few actors who tend to get nominated again and again. Those nomination received by black men? 6 of them – count ’em, 6 – went to Denzel Washington. Sidney Pointier has 2, Will Smith has 2, Morgan Freeman has 4 – etc. The list goes on. And among other races, it’s worse.

      That’s the problem. It’s not just diversity of race, but of number. Are they trying to tell us that Washington, Freeman and a few others between them are the only black men really worth nominating? Please. This is not to detract from any of those guys, all of whom are fine actors. But when we say diversity, we mean actual diversity.

      • Alicia says:

        Those men get nominated regularly for the same reason DiCaprio, Lawrence, and Streep do, they get first pick at the very limited amount of quality roles in Hollywood. That’s not a race thing, that’s a “Hollywood doesn’t make enough good movies” thing.

        Bottom line: the numbers are proportional.

      • SloaneY says:

        Except that’s true for the whites as well. How many times has Leo been nominated? Meryl Streep? Jack Nicholson? Kate Winslet? Care Blanchett? The problem with the Oscars is the same people get nominated over and over again.

        The problem, also, is that there is a lack of diversity at the base levels. You can’t get academy members who are diverse when the pool is so small. This isn’t just about actors. It’s about editors, cinematographers, composers, directors. You can’t just pull women and minorities off the street and dub them Academy members. They have to come up through the ranks.

      • Alicia says:

        Hell, 60% of this year’s acting nominees have been nominated before.

      • Sam says:

        Except it’s not statistically comparable to whites because whites comprise a far larger pool of the population. Streep might get nominated a lot, but there’s not much argument that she’s crowding out other white actresses, since there are at least 4 other spots for them to receive. POC can expect to receive maybe 1 or at best 2 slots per nomination category. When the same people are nominated over and over, it does effectively crowd out the field. POC don’t expect a totally non-white slate, and get that it’s proportional. But if the proportions are to work, we can expect 1 or 2 nomination in a given category. When the same people get those over and over (even when they might not deserve them) you effectively do stymy progress. That’s the point. It’s gotten to the point where there’s the “standby” choice for different races.

      • Alicia says:

        “When the same people are nominated over and over, it does effectively crowd out the field.”

        Sure, but that’s not a racial thing. When only a couple dozen actors/actresses get nearly ALL the best roles in Hollywood, and African-Americans comprise such a small portion of the population, that means only a few black actors (Washington, Smith, Jackson, etc.) are going to get in on the action.

        It’s unfair to expect a studio to “spread the wealth” when it comes to roles for black actors when a Denzel Washington has proven (A) he can act better than nearly everyone on Earth, and (B) he can put asses in the seats. If you can get him in your movie, you do. Period.

      • Sam says:

        Except you’re basically still going along with the exclusionary principle. Washington is an excellent actor, but the question is whether he is the only one. The Academy consistently engages in tokenism. Read the Hollywood reporter’s article about last year’s voting. A ton of members basically said that since 12 years a slave won the year before, they didn’t feel obligated to nominate Selma. So basically, that’s an admission of tokenism. That’s what I’m getting at. If Washington is a great actor that year, it’s perfectly fine to nominate him. But currently, the way it works is that once you have one nominated actor who is black (and who gets nominations consistently and is a safe choice), you feel no further obligation to go any further. That’s the problem. White people are not subject to tokenism, whereas POC deal with it all the time. That’s the problem. (Not to mention that there’s that whole little problem of POC only getting awards for playing roles that play to stereotypes, but that’s a whole other beast).

    • Freebunny says:

      I think it would be more fair if we compared the winners and nominees with the actual acting population and not the entire US population.
      I think it depends on what we call representation.
      1. first hypothesis, the Oscars must represent every segment of the population whatever their number and then we would have the black nominee, the white nominee, the asian nominee, etc.
      2. second hypothesis, the Oscars must represent the actual demography of the country and then the white population is still the more important.
      Those hypothesis can seem absurd, but I get that it’s a society choice.

      • Greenieweenie says:

        The Academy is an institution. Institutions are social by nature. This particular institution rewards people in Hollywood in a way that has a transformative effect on their careers. It grants professional advantage, in other words.

        Why shouldn’t Hollywood represent society? They entertain us with stories about ourselves. Why don’t those stories represent who we are as a people? Because only stories about white people make money? Because only stories made by white men make money? Because women can’t direct or produce or act like men do? Because the proportion of black actors should only ever match that of the national population (12%) or less? Because there’s no reason why a race with a history of enslavement and forced illiteracy might have somehow developed a culture rich in music and storytelling–a culture that infuses American popular culture and music? There’s no reason why they maybe shouldn’t actually be OVERrepresented, much like in sports?

        I mean, you could pick this apart all day. But I hate this framing of racism as “but why does everything have to be proportionate?” (Not saying anyone here is saying that). Because it SUCKS when it’s otherwise. It’s necessarily impoverished. It’s crappier art. It’s white music before jazz and rock and roll. It’s worse; it speaks to fewer people; it tells fewer stories; and it’s simply anachronistic.

      • SloaneY says:

        “It’s white music before jazz music”. ?? What is ‘white music’? I didn’t realize it was its own genre, let alone “crappier art”.
        Not trying to put words in your mouth, but based on your statements, it sounds like you’re saying all art done by white people is inferior.
        And people wonder why they get backlash.
        You don’t have to demean another’s artistic contribution to prove validity in your own. But, if you wanna go there, I gotta pick Mozart every day over Jay Z. I know, I know, he’s a talentless white hack who wishes h had Jay Z’s genius. 🙄

      • Sam says:

        The issue with the Oscars is that it’s a part of the entertainment industry. Which is, let’s be frank, an industry that relies upon consumers to exist. A movie might be the greatest film in the world, but if nobody goes to see it, is it going to succeed? No. An actor might give the greatest performance ever, but if nobody sees it, what’s it worth?

        The industry depends upon the consumer to survive. And almost fully half of all movie tickets are sold to POC. We’re supporting an industry that seems intent upon taking a crap on us. Do we as consumers not have a right to want to see films and actors that speak to our lives, our experiences, our history, etc.? That’s the problem. It’s an industry that needs POC money and viewership to survive, but it gives nothing back.

  13. Wentworth Miller says:

    “I would like to walk away and say it doesn’t matter, but it does,” I liked that David actually said that. You often hear people saying that they don’t care and that the award doesn’t matter, and while some genuinely feel that way, some people say it and only say it if they’re not nominated for a role.

  14. Pri says:

    There is a reason that second generation kids are going back to India to pursue a career in Bollywood, as opposed to a Hollywood acting career. Same with those in the Chinese/HK community, they go back for acting careers.

    There are so many amazing global films that the Academy does not even know about? Maybe the academy needs to rethink categorizing diverse foreign films into a tiny category?

  15. teacakes says:

    The funniest part is, forget being the best movies of the year, sometimes the stuff that gets nominated for Oscars isn’t even GOOD – I mean, Black Swan? War Horse? Avatar? American Sniper? are you kidding me, Academy? Is anyone even going to watch those movies in five years? (hell, does anyone care to watch Black Swan or Avatar now?)

    It’s come to a point where people know the Oscar formula so well that they can predict nominations before people have so much as shot one reel of a film made to that formula (a ~serious~ film that’s dark but not ~too dark, and if you must make a comedy make sure it’s self-consciously clever instead of actually being, you know, funny).

    There’s no place for anything actually challenging or groundbreaking or even ENTERTAINING in the Oscars anymore (Melacholia was a brilliant movie with equally brilliant performances from its leads, but would never have got an Oscar nomination because the Academy voters’ pea brains can’t deal with it) , despite their nod to the superhero Oscar bait that was The Dark Knight Rises (but seriously, that was Oscar bait. If the Academy had chosen to honour, say, Captain America: The Winter Soldier in place of American Sniper, that might actually have meant something).

    • Wentworth Miller says:

      I agree. And Black Swan could have been a made for Netflix movie.

    • Original Kay says:

      That’s how I feel about mad max being nominated for best film. Who will remember it? It was just excessive violence and a bit of action.

    • SloaneY says:

      War Horse was a great movie. Even Avatar was groundbreaking in scope. Last year’s Birdman was brilliant, especially as far as shooting style goes. Yes, there is a lot of forulaic crap, but they do nominate some good stuff too. To each their own. They can’t please everyone.

      • teacakes says:

        War Horse, great? As a play, yes. As a film, most definitely not. Well, not unless I was 12 years old and in my sentimental post-Black Beauty phase. (and let’s be real here – it was nominated because it was a Steven Spielberg movie and they paid for an Oscar campaign. Not because it was any good)

        and that was just my point – the Academy can only stand a certain level of innovation or groundbreaking, and 95 percent of the time it’s just gimmickry that will be forgotten in five years. I mean, people actually remember/rewatch Titanic, almost 20 years later. But who wants to do that for Avatar and the like?

      • Sam says:

        Avatar, really? I agree nominating it for technical awards was appropriate. But that thing got nominated for best director and best picture. How? Did the voters all of a sudden discover a great love for a Pocahontas-Fern Gully hybrid? That movie was partially the reason why Oscar voters seem so out of touch.

      • lisa says:

        lol, sorry not sorry but i loved war horse

    • Farhi says:

      To be honest I loved Avatar and Black Swan, and Birdman. Watched them all multiple times.

  16. Sarah01 says:

    You can have 6000 ( or whatever it is) white old men that vote for the performances or contributions, who can vote fairly based on talent. They don’t need to vote for only whites they can vote for whoever they feel is deserving and that can include POC. Same way casting people can cast POC for great roles make it colour blind. Because if the whites only gravitate towards the whites and vote for them and POC gravitate towards POC then the system is pointless, because true effort and talent isn’t being recognised.
    I would never want an award just based on my skin colour I want to earn it and feel my peers recognised my efforts and work. But I want an equal opportunity to have equal access to all opportunities. So the race was fair and won fairly.

    • teacakes says:

      They don’t actually vote on talent, they vote based on their notions of what a “good” movie is. Which, in some cases, means nothing more than “Harvey Weinstein is distributing it”. Or “it’s about WWII”. Or “the main actor starved and tortured himself/herself for the movie, or had to get ugly, or suffer”. Or even “it’s about a person with a disability/mental health issues, but with an uplifting end!” (no Melancholia here, thank you)

      And by the time they’re done filling slots based on those notions, there’s no room to consider the actual merit of the films, or think outside of the box in any way.

  17. Lilacflowers says:

    I know there is a lot of focus on “the old white guys” Oscar voting block but I’m going to point out that the block only votes as a whole in the nomination process for Best Picture. The various craft areas (sound, editing, makeup, costume, cinematography, writing) vote among themselves on the nominations. The directors, which is the smallest and least diverse group, nominates the directors. Only actors choose the acting nominations and I suspect there are just as many old white women in that group as old white men.

    By the way, I don’t see The Martian as being just about a white guy. I see it as a film about how a team of people, led by a man of mixed Asian/African race uses calculations from an African American mathematician and models developed by a Chinese American engineer to send a spaceship commanded by a woman and piloted by a Mexican American, with the help of one German scientist and the entire nation of China, to retrieve a white guy. We shouldn’t downplay the contributions of others in favor of a white guy, in movies or life.

  18. teacakes says:

    Black Swan was a camp film trying to be ~dark~, that had delusions of grandeur because of its subject/setting – people thought it was a psychological fim about ballet so it had to be great by default (which, no. I’d rather watch The Red Shoes instead). And Portman got the Oscar mainly for spending two months talking about how she starved and trained, rather than anything she did onscreen.

    A great movie wouldn’t have me breaking out in giggles at its supposedly intense, emotionally-tortured climax – that sequence of Portman’s body transforming into a swan, bendy legs and all, is unintentional comedy GOLD.

    edit: oop what happened? I was typing a reply but it ended up as a separate comment, and the comment I was responding to has vanished.

  19. CK says:

    I also think that the Academy should cap the amount of industry events that a film can hold for voters to 2 or 1. Mediocre films and mediocre talent should not be able to get in by schmoozing with the big wigs more because I’m sure that voters will always choose to go to the 3rd or 4th party for Joy to see Jeniffer Lawrence (whom I enjoy) if the alternative for the night is the Creed or Straight out of Compton party.

    • word says:

      If life was only that fair. It’s the same way a person in an office moves up the ladder even though they are the weakest employee. They spend their time kissing up to management and going out for drinks with the boss after work. Very rarely are promotions due to actual hard work.

  20. iheartgossip says:

    Too late, darling. Way To Late.

  21. Hildebryn says:

    Would have been nice if she’d included disable people as one of the marginalized groups to be uplifted.