Here's Why People Are (Rightly) Freaking Out About the Oscar Nominations

The Academy's selections were overwhelmingly white this year, but many in the organization don't see the problem.

David Oyelowo. (Photo: Steve Granitz/Getty Images)

Jan 15, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Jennifer Swann is TakePart’s culture and lifestyle reporter.

The film industry is stuck in the past, and Thursday's Oscar nominations are further proof. Not only were no women nominated in the writing or directing categories (Angelina Jolie and Ava DuVernay both directed features this year), but not one person of color was nominated in any of the Oscar's acting categories either—for the first time since 1998.

The omission was particularly shocking because David Oyelowo had been considered an Oscar shoo-in for his portrayal of Martin Luther King Jr., in Selma. Many hoped that this year's awards would continue the momentum built last year, when Steve McQueen became the first black director to receive an award associated with the best picture category for 12 Years a Slave.

Instead, the nominations for best actor went to Steve Carell in Foxcatcher, Bradley Cooper in American Sniper, Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game, Michael Keaton in Birdman, and Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything. All five of those movies are stories about middle-aged white men, and that's exactly the demographic of the Academy members who voted for them.

A 2012 L.A. Times study that examined the race, gender, and age of more than 5,000 Academy voters found that they're predominantly middle-aged, about 77 percent male, and 94 percent white—blacks and Latinos each make up about 2 percent of the Academy.

Academy vice president Phil Alden Robinson, himself among the middle-aged white males in the organization, acknowledged that the Academy needed to "do a better job" of diversifying, but he ultimately placed the blame on the industry at large. If it doesn't work toward "opening up its ranks," he told the Times, "it's very hard for us to diversify our membership."

It seems neither the industry nor the Academy has yet to hold itself accountable. Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the first African American elected to this position, isn't necessarily working toward improving the situation. In an interview with Vulture on Thursday, she raved about Selma, calling it a "terrific motion picture."

Does the Academy have an issue recognizing diversity? "Not at all," she said.

This year's overwhelmingly white nominations show otherwise.