Opinion

Motion Picture Academy's New Standards for Diversity at the Oscars Kills Artistic Expression

|
Posted: Sep 10, 2020 12:01 AM
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
Motion Picture Academy's New Standards for Diversity at the Oscars Kills Artistic Expression

Source: Photo by Danny Moloshok/Invision/AP, File

Sure, that is a hyperbolic and overly dramatized conclusion when looking over the newly released standards set forth by the Motion Picture Academy of Arts And Sciences, the governing body that produces The Oscars. Yet when looking over the new list of requirements the academy will be adopting in 2024 for qualifying films there is no mistaking that their requirement of thresholds to be met for diversity hiring is nothing other than veiled affirmative action.

Look, nobody outside the industry itself pretends The Oscars are about true merit and artistic excellence. The years of studios campaigning and bribing to sway the electorate to choose their movie as the best is only part of the sham. In recent years we have seen a bout of virtue signaling selections and efforts made to appease a broader spectrum, none of it done in the name of art. 

What is amazing is that with this new standard put in place we now have The academy essentially admitting that the art is secondary to the messaging. To explain, for a film to qualify for The Oscars there needs to be a set criteria met by the production. The academy has set up four categories to be analyzed, with the movie needing to meet the requirements of at least any of two of those categories. This is all done to encourage greater opportunity for underrepresented individuals. 

I’ll break down each of the four standards categories here. For the sake of brevity each will concern a list of seven ethnic minorities, and a secondary list that includes females, LGBTQ, and/or those with physical disabilities. 

A. ON-SCREEN REPRESENTATION, THEMES AND NARRATIVES

  1. LEAD OR SUPPORTING PERFORMERS - One actor from the listed groups.

  2. GENERAL ENSEMBLE CAST - At least 30% must be from the listed groups

  3. MAIN STORY LINE/ SUBJECT MATTER - The plot, theme, or narrative is centered upon one of these groups

     B.  CREATIVE LEADERSHIP AND PROJECT TEAM

  1. CREATIVE LEADERSHIP AND DEPARTMENT HEADS - This concerns the production team of the movie, and it dictates that at least two of the titles from the team are composed of the listed groups. Basically this involves all of those titles you see in the opening credits; director, editor, writer, costumer, etc.

  2. OTHER KEY ROLES - At least six other crew/team and technical positions from the listed groups. These are the technicians on set, basically.

  3. OVERALL CREW COMPOSITION - At least 30% must be from the listed groups. 

     C. INDUSTRY ACCESS AND OPPORTUNITIES

  1. PAID APPRENTICESHIP AND INTERNSHIP OPPORTUNITIES - This is a nebulous requirement that states the distributor or financing company has some of these positions offered to people on the listed groups. The major studios are told to have these, but in an unannounced amount, and to have them in ‘’most’’ of their departments.

  2. TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES AND SKILLS DEVELOPMENT - This requires the production, distribution and/or financing company offers training for crew pertaining to the listed groups. So any of those can just say they offer it, without a required enrollment...I guess.

     D. AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT

The studio and/or film company has multiple in-house senior executives from the listed groups on their marketing, publicity, and/or distribution teams.

Overall this does not appear to be an overly intrusive set of criteria for studios to meet. A nominal effort will probably be enough to qualify, with Category C being the easiest given that appears almost to be an ‘’honor system’’ threshold; they can simply say they offered those positions, and the acceptance by POC individuals is not shown as a requirement. Plus we need to ask just how beneficial it is to say that they have people in minority ethnic groups working for free in order to meet diversity standards.

The flaw in the thinking here is that all of this appears to be the priority, and not the art itself. It strikes one as amazing that there could actually be a movie that is universally praised as Oscar-worthy, but then finds that it is prevented from consideration for falling short of these category requirements. Consider that a film can be artistically of the highest order but then be eliminated because the marketing division lacked diversity. Think of the uproar if a big-budget war epic becomes disqualified because its crew of hundreds was found to be only 29% diverse. 

In ‘’Northern Exposure,’’ they said ‘’Repetition is the death of art." That said, then social mandates has to be regarded as the handicapping of it. Film is to be regarded as artistic expression, and it is to be regarded as a wide open vista of opportunity. This is the folly of this mandate from The Academy. They want to narrow the scope of the ‘’acceptable’’ films and this will create a dichotomy in the industry, with what are regarded as the ‘’elite’’ films becoming more uniform in their delivery.

This is what happens when the Academy projects its problem onto others. Years back, when there was an "Oscars So White’’ controversy actor Robert DeNiro came out to say that Hollywood’s monochromatic Oscars was proof that we are a racist country. They were overtly racist, but it was our fault. In similar fashion the Oscars have admitted they have a race problem, so their solution is to force the studios into compliance. The result is imposing Affirmative Action onto art.

Notably there is one under-represented group that did not make the list of demographically-targeted labels: Conservatives. Talk about a microscopically small subset in the industry vastly in need of more exposure in entertainment -- even the pedophiles in Hollywood enjoy more coverage and protection than avowed Republican performers.