2016 Academy Awards – A turning point for cultural diversity?

 

Guest blog by Omar Mendoza:

The 2016 Academy Awards were a turning point for the culture surrounding Hollywood diversity – or lack thereof. The overarching theme of the night was addressed through comedy, music, and the occasional serious speech. Individuals see this high-profile event as an opportunity to really speak to the masses. With millions of people tuning in, it’s difficult but necessary to turn the spotlight away from the individual and onto the bigger issues.

 

Diversity is not only about ethnicity and race. People from all walks of life can come together to create a masterpiece – within the film industry and beyond. If everyone in a team was the same age, sex, and socioeconomic status – the product would be a one-dimensional disaster. To create a masterpiece, you need the perspectives of multiple people from different backgrounds. Below are moments where diversity was highlighted at the Oscars through visibility and awareness.

 

Sexual Abuse Diversity

Lady Gaga may not have won an Oscar, but she won the Oscars with her performance of “Till It Happens to You”, an anthem from the film The Hunting Ground. Lady Gaga, herself a victim of sexual abuse, was introduced by current vice president Joe Biden. Biden used this moment to bring awareness to his #ItsOnUs campaign, a movement that encourages people to come together to support victims of sexual assault regardless of their background or situation.

2016 Oscars Diversity

As usual, Lady Gaga delivered a powerhouse performance that ended with 50 sexual assault victims joining her on stage, hand in hand. Looking at the stage, it is evident that sexual abuse is not confined to a specific gender or race. Bringing awareness to this issue was in itself an accomplishment almost as powerful as winning an Oscar.

 

Racial Diversity

We went into Oscars expecting a discussion on the lack of diversity in Hollywood, and we sure didn’t leave disappointed. The elephant in the room was addressed right away by host Chris rock through his opening dialogue:

2016 Oscars Diversity

Throughout the show, countless presenters and awardees mentioned the lack of Diversity in Hollywood. Although the focus was on the lack of African-American nominees, Hispanics and Asians are also among minorities who do not have the opportunity to share their voice and perspective on film. As we saw at the Oscars, a film doesn’t start when filming – it begins early on during screenwriting. To be successful, diversity has to start in the writing room not the marketing room.

 

LGBT Diversity

The LGBT community got a shout out from Sam Smith, who dedicated his Oscar for “Best Original Song” to the community. Although he wasn’t the first openly gay person to win an Oscar, the problem is you can count the actual number of gay winners in two hands.

LGBT Diversity 2016 Oscars

Gay artists are insecure that coming out would ruin their personal brand and hold them back from the accomplishments a straight person can achieve. As more of these openly gay artists win awards, more people will be inspired to authentically express themselves through art.

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The point of bringing awareness to diversity and the lack of minority representation is not a plea to hire more “colored” actors. Minorities are not begging to get hired – they are simply asking for the same opportunities that their white counterparts get.

 

In the end, it’s not about diversity – it’s about comfort. Imagine walking into a job interview and realizing you are the only person of your race at the company? Would you feel uncomfortable? Compelled to turn back? Now imagine this happened to you everywhere you went. That’s how minorities feel, and many of them are here. If we want to continue growing as a nation, it’s crucial for us to include the voices that have been quiet for so long. Diversity may not have been nominated for an Oscar, but it sure did win the night.

 

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To read more articles from Omar on Technology, Diversity & Creativity visit his blog page