Signs of Trouble for Efforts to Mandate Movie Diversity at the Oscars

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the organization behind The Oscars, has quietly changed its outreach program to promote inclusivity. The next Oscars Awards will see the implementation of a program that has been in development for years to establish diversity standards for competing movies.

Now, it seems that this effort may be meeting the reality challenge. The Academy has lowered its standards, which could be a sign that the implementation process is not going smoothly.

Hollywood would be a very different place if it didn’t have melodrama, emotional reactions, and a lot of emotion. This leads to less pragmatism. In 2015, the monochromatic winner list of the Academy Awards was criticized by many. The social media hashtag #OscarsSoWhite gained traction forcing the industry to reflect. The entertainment industry, which loves to accuse the nation of being intolerant, was exposed as a bunch of hypocrites when it came to race.

Face-saving efforts started in earnest. The Academy expanded its ranks in order to admit more women and people from different backgrounds. A few years back, the Academy came up with a brilliant idea to force diversity and inclusivity standards on films up for nomination. The Academy would require that individual films meet DEI standards to be eligible for the Oscars.

This program, which requires representation and inclusion standards, was dubbed RAISE. The Academy would inspect the background of the individuals employed to determine the diversity of the film. Films that hoped to be Oscar contenders had to submit details about their production hiring to them. Films must meet minimum hiring criteria in a structured formula to receive a RAISE number. This would allow the film to be considered for Oscar consideration.

Once you look at the requirements, this nebulous equation is enough to give you a migraine. In terms of diversity, the Academy has four standards that are looked at. A movie production must meet two of them in order to be eligible. The mandates for inclusivity are:

  • Onscreen Representation, Themes, and Narratives (cast and/or storyline is minority focused)
  • Creative Leadership And Project Team (the behind-the-camera teams and crew members are diverse)
  • Industry Access and Opportunities (The production provided internships and other created positions for approved categories)
  • Audience Development (The marketing and distribution departments were appropriately diverse.

Amusingly, while the Academy may want to impose these production thresholds, the filmmakers would be forced to violate labor laws. It is often illegal for employers to ask about your sexual preferences or racial background because it could lead to discrimination in the workplace. The Academy is focusing on gender, race, and LGBT people, as well as people with disabilities.

The practice of gender fluidity, which is now widely accepted, has some loopholes. “Say, Hank? We need a few more females to reach our quota.” “Can you identify yourself as a female until the end?”

We now know that the Academy has loosened up its position, at least a little, which is a sign that some titles may be having trouble with this issue. A new standard was suddenly implemented on the website, giving movies some flexibility in these mandates. Deadline has found that movies can now be excused from the RAISE requirements and still be eligible to be nominated for Oscars. The mitigating factor, however, is that they would not be eligible in the Best Picture category.

This revision was brought about by snags encountered in the application of standards.

The current policy was developed based on feedback from the industry and the experience gained during the implementation. These people stated that a significant change was made in the policy. Producers and distributors are no longer asked to identify cast members and crew by name when reporting sex issues, race issues, and disability concerns. In its previous form, the platform required such identification.

This explanation is more likely to exclude films that were considered Oscar bait and potential contenders. These mandates were likely to have forced the Academy to face the reality that they would be unable to promote the boutique and arthouse films that they are so fond of.

Consider that a festival favorite might not receive any nominations if the team of craft services was too diverse. The “Affirmative Acting’ requirements are a joke. They often have little to do with art. It is enough to know that the Best Picture of next year will at least be DEI-compliant and representative.

Rename the Best Diversity In Film category and you’re done.