Oscars increase in diversity from years previous

Rithika Ashok, Assistant Features Editor

The infamous hashtag, #OscarsSoWhite, started trending last year after the 88th Academy Award nominations were announced. Some believe the wave of white celebrities at the 2016 Oscars ceremony did little to help the lack of diversity in Hollywood films. However, the discussions that resulted drew attention to the issue and promoted positive change in the entertainment industry.

“[The fact that none of the major award nominees were people of color made it seem] like there were not enough people who were diverse attempting to reach out to become someone in the film industry [when this was not the case],” freshman Sydney Tucker said. “It kind of felt like the film industry was looking down upon [people of color].”

This pressing problem resulted in an effort to positively change the increasingly common perception that the film industry was slipping into an irreversible mindset of an ideal actor or actress.

This year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences took the initiative to make sure nominations accurately represented different cultures and ethnicities of film industry members. Although critical darlings like “La La Land” and “Manchester by the Sea” may have seemed to lack diversity, movies such as “Fences” and “Lion” took a share of the spotlight.

African-American actress Viola Davis won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in “Fences” while her co-star Denzel Washington was nominated for Best Actor. In addition, Mahershala Ali won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in “Moonlight,” making him the first Muslim to win this award. Also, his co-star Naomie Harris was nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Additionally, Ruth Negga of “Loving,” who is of Ethiopian-Irish descent, and African-American actress Octavia Spencer of “Hidden Figures,” were in the running for the prestigious Oscars for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. Finally, after some confusion, Best Picture was awarded to “Moonlight,” an LGBT movie with an all-black cast.

Indian actor Dev Patel, who became a darling of the film industry after his breakthrough role in 2008’s “Slumdog Millionaire,” was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in “Lion,” which tells the tale of an adopted Indian man setting out to find his birth family.

In addition to the acting nominations that recognized a diverse group of performers, people of color were acknowledged for their work behind the scenes.

“It’s much more diverse this year, and it is an excellent representation of the diversity that was lacking last year,” sophomore Anjeli Shankar said. “It is definitely a step forward for Hollywood.”

To see the American film industry growing and evolving into a diverse stage for actors and actresses of all backgrounds inspires the next generation of individuals to follow their dreams.

“I think that it doesn’t make people of color feel less [worthy] than the others in the film industry,” Tucker said.

To enter an industry which is accepting of everyone, especially in a world that is unpredictable, it is empowering for the public, and it provides a sense of reassurance that the world is evolving into a place where all individuals can follow their dreams. The measures that the Academy took over the past year have changed the American film industry for the better, and as a result, have positively impacted society.