Last Thursday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the official nominations for the 2016 Oscars. Proponents for greater racial diversity in the film industry are critical of this year’s list, especially of the fact that, for the second year in a row, all the nominees for Best Actor are white. The disappointment at this year’s lack of racial diversity has been sharpened both by national events that have sparked public debate over the systemic racial inequalities and sentiment that the Academy’s long-promise for greater inclusion has been long-dodged.
One vocal critic has been Spike Lee. Known for creating characters that take a stance on evil, this year Spike will himself be taking a stance – on racial diversity. Intentionally timed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Lee took to his Instagram to denounce this year’s “lily white” list of Oscar nominees. He announced that he will boycott this year’s Oscars to protest the lack of recognition of minorities in film. Jada Pinkett-Smith, from popular television show Gotham, also took to social media on Monday with a video announcing she too will boycott the ceremony. Lee and Pinkett-Smith’s public stances on this issue have garnered much media attention, with Pinkett-Smith’s video amassing over 7 millions views in a day. Renewed focus on the need for greater inclusion of minorities in the film industry has also prompted the resurfacing of the #OscarsSoWhite Twitter campaign.
Racial diversity has become a hot-button topic in the public realm and the 2016 Oscars are emerging as an example of this issue’s pertinence even at the highest levels of society. Whether more actors and actresses join Lee and Pinkett-Smith in their Oscars boycott will determine whether this years ceremony goes from high society to high politics.
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Jennifer Marr is an Entertainment and Sports Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current first year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2018).