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A first for minorities at the Oscars

A+first+for+minorities+at+the+Oscars

We’re not all racists, it turns out.

At least not according to Oscar host Ellen DeGeneres, who quipped during the opening ceremony Sunday night that either “12 Years a Slave” wins Best Picture or “you’re all racists.”

This was the first time the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded Best Picture to a black filmmaker. “12 Years a Slave” director Steve McQueen received the award and dedicated it to those who have endured and continue to endure slavery.

He classified it as a “mark of development” to the press backstage. “It’s obviously a progression,” he said.

But the fact that the film that chronicles the enslaving of a black man in the antebellum American South—or that it was directed by a black man—hardly reflects a wholly diverse Hollywood.

The Academy is made up of voters who are 93 percent white, 76 percent male and who average an age of 63, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Academy’s first African American president, who was introduced during the telecast, has recognized the Academy’s efforts to diversify.

She told NPR about her selection as president, “It’s a signal that Hollywood in general is being much more inclusive, much more aware of different voices.”

The fact remains that women and minorities remain underrepresented in the industry, but there’s a market for it. Woody Allen’s female-driven “Blue Jasmine” garnered $33 million in the domestic box office.

Cate Blanchett, the film’s star, alluded to this during her acceptance speech for Best Actress.

She said, “Those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money. The world is round people.”

According to the 2014 Hollywood Diversity Report, films with a larger amount of minority involvement (21-30 percent) had the highest median global box office receipts. However, the report also found that among film leads, minorities were underrepresented by a factor of greater than 3 to 1 and women by a factor of 2 to 1.

Among film directors, minorities were underrepresented by a factor of 3 to 1 and women by a factor of 12 to 1.

Alfonso Cuarón became the first Latin American to receive the award for Best Director. Cuarón is from Mexico City. Just four years ago, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win Best Director.

McQueen’s and Cuarón’s wins reflect advances in the technical fields. On the screen, Lupita Nyong’o became the sixth black woman to win for Best Supporting Actress. The rest of the acting categories went to Matthew McConaughey for Best Actor and Jared Leto for Best Supporting Actor.

Although the outlook for minorities to take home an award remains bleak—the study found that a cast that is made up of more than 30 percent minorities has a zero chance of winning an Oscar—Sunday night’s ceremony signaled some long-awaited change. Let’s hope this gets the ball rolling.

Andrés Rodríguez may be reached at [email protected].

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A first for minorities at the Oscars