Director Ryan Coogler (L) and actor Michael B. Jordan were among the latest crop of Academy invitees. Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI
After two consecutive years of fielding persistent criticism over the ubiquitous whiteness of its Academy Award nominees — criticism that was most visibly expressed via the #OscarsSoWhite Twitter hashtag and subsequent boycotts of the 2016 ceremony — the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is actively trying to diversify its membership.
On June 29, the Academy issued a record 683 membership invitations to various filmmakers and other Hollywood elites. And in keeping with the new membership diversity initiative it announced in January, many of these invitations went to women and people of color.
Related Oscars boycott: the Academy changes its membership rules to deal with diversity problems
However, don’t expect to see immediate changes in the Academy’s overall diversity numbers; because the organization as a whole is still so predominantly white and male, its new "class" of entrants will only increase its overall diversity to about 38 percent, up from 33 percent before the new invites were sent out. This stat, as noted in the Hollywood Reporter, includes both female and nonwhite members.
In other words, even with this record-breaking invitee list, the Academy still skews 62 percent white and male.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, 46 percent of the Academy’s 683 newly issued invites went to women, and 41 percent went to people of color. Many of the most prominent potential recruits from among the Academy’s efforts to recruit women and creatives of color were attention-getting names. You can see the whole list at THR, but here are a few of our most notables.
Meanwhile, Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan, who made a head-turning director/star combo in both
(2015), also received invites, as did director/actor Nate Parker, whose upcoming film
Other invitees included younger stars like Tom Hiddleston and Andrew Garfield as well as recent attention grabbers like director Lenny Abrahamson (
There are also plenty of film veterans on the list — writers like Tina Fey and David Henry Hwang; well-known actors such as Vivica Fox, Ice Cube, and Gabrielle Union; and renowned female horror directors like Mary Harron
’s superhero editor Margaret Sixel also snagged an invitation, on the heels of her Oscar win for her work on the film. (Newly minted Oscar winners and nominees are typically invited to join the Academy, though not always.)
In the "how was this person not already a member?" category, we have revered Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, director of groundbreaking films like
, longtime French director Catherine Breillat, British heartthrob Idris Elba (
), and legendary stage actresses Cherry Jones and Patti LuPone.
In fact, the entire list of directors new to the Academy contains a litany of filmmakers whose Academy invites seem jaw-droppingly overdue: Taika Waititi (
), and Keenen Ivory Wayans are all new invitees this year, just to name a few.
Provided most of the invitees accept the honor and join the Academy, the influx of new voices could make waves in the kinds of films that are considered for the Academy Awards. After all, it’s hard to see invited musicians like Mary J. Blige and Will.i.am, or outspoken progressive writers like Sherman Alexie, also on this year’s invite list, voting to uphold the Academy’s status quo image of what an Oscar-winning film looks like.
But that sea change can only come from the Academy continuing to extend its invites to other diverse members. Currently, even with the newest potential inductees, the Academy’s overall membership includes only 11 percent people of color. And that’s assuming everyone accepts.
Still, the change is a much-needed one for a motion picture industry that has often been criticized as being hopelessly out of touch because of its failure to diversify.
If nothing else, it’s a long-overdue move — and hopefully it means more change is on the way.
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