Oscars 2014- when Hollywood finally found diversity (just a little)

It’s been 86 years since Hollywood first gave out awards to honor their own and until last night there hasn’t been near enough diversity among nominees and winners. Hollywood still has a lot of work to do not only in movies but also in television, however, last night was a good start. See this article for more information http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/03/oscars-diversity_n_4889293.html?utm_hp_ref=entertainment. (Full disclosure I am a white lesbian so I to these issues from two marginalized groups while also being a part of a majority group)
I blame the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the lack of diversity since 94 percent of the members are white while 6 percent are members of other racial groups and 77 percent of members are male while only 23 percent are female. Also, they are overwhelmingly older which translates into a lack of understanding of the multicultural world that we live in today. As for television the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences that votes for the Emmy’s has the same problem. If membership in these two organizations keeps skewing white and male and execs at movie studios and television networks keep putting media out that doesn’t represent the world around us they will lose out to the web. Look at how the Veronica Mars movie got made. Producers, writers and directors are increasingly bringing content directly to the web so their stories can get told without studio and network influence. The ability to get financing via Kickstarter and other means has also freed up creators in ways that society is only beginning to grasp.
Last night the Academy showcased a group of young filmmakers (3 women and 3 men) from colleges around the country and what struck me was their diversity. This is what the country looks like and what the Academy needs to work towards. See this article for more about them http://www.arabnews.com/news/532306. I hope the new Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the first African-American president, stays strong and commits to diversity among the membership of the Academy.
Also, a study was recently done that showed among the Oscar nominated films male leads averaged 85 minutes of screen time, while female leads averaged only 57 minutes. One only has to look at television credits to see how many males are on shows VS females. One network that reverses these numbers is ABC Family with their female fronted shows Switched at Birth, The Fosters and Pretty Little Liars.
While I take issue with a Woody Allen movie being recognized by the Academy (due to Dylan Farrow’s molestation accusations- which I believe BTW), I did appreciate Cate Blanchett calling out Hollywood to make more female fronted films. They should take note of the fact that The Hunger Games-Catching Fire (with Jennifer Lawrence in the lead role) was the highest grossing film of last year. The movie also passed the Bechdel test which should be an important part of how films are constructed.
They say that culture moves society faster than legislation and the courts and if that’s the case we still have a long ways to go regarding representation in movies and TV. I hope that the next ten years sees a sea change in representation similar to the advancements that the LGBT community has made since former President Bush waged a war on my community with his call for a ban on same-sex marriage across the country in 2004.

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The awesomeness that is Sleepy Hollow

When I first read about Sleepy Hollow this past summer I was drawn to the show for so many reasons including my love of history and science fiction/fantasy as well as fish out of water stories. The show hits all the right notes with all of these aspects of storytelling, however, the best part of the show is how the creators/writers have crafted every character.

What I mean by this is that the lead characters Ichabod Crane (played by British actor Tom Mison), who is a white man, and Leftenant (what Icabod calls her) Abbie Mills (played by Nicole Beharie), who is an African-American woman, are treated equally with compelling back stories and each of them getting to be each other’s heroes/sheroes throughout the season.

In the interest of full disclosure I am a white woman who happens to be a lesbian.

On most shows the African-American characters are given supporting character status but this show bucks that trend. It took me awhile to realize this but in one of the scenes in the 11th episode “Vessel” this past season (the one where Macey is being rescued by a demon who has possessed her) the only white person in the scene is Icabod. The rest of the characters are African-American: Abbie, her sister Jenny (played by Lyndie Greenwood), and Macey’s (played by the Hunger Games Amandla Stenberg) parents Captain Frank Irving (played by Orlando Jones) and his estranged wife Cynthia (played by Jill Marie Jones). Most shows would never dare to show that many strong African-American characters in one scene.

Asian-Americans and Latino-Americans also have representation on the show with Officer Andy Brooks (played by John Cho) and Detective Luke Morales (played by Nicholas Gonzalez). So far there haven’t been any LGBT characters but I wouldn’t be surprised if that didn’t happen in the second season beginning this coming fall.

Ichabod’s wife Katrina (played by Katia Winter), Abbie’s mentor Sheriff August Corbin (played by Clancy Brown) and Icabod and Katrina’s son Jeffrey/Henry (played by John Nobel) round out the rest of the cast (they are all white) and everyone’s stories for the most part are woven seamlessly into each other.

Only a few other shows get this kind of integrated casting correct which is a sad comment on our media culture. They are Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Orange is the New Black, and The Fosters.

Recently the writer/creator of Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy received the Diversity Award from the Directors Guild of America and she expressed her irritation that there even needs to be a diversity award. More of her comments can be found here http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/27/shonda-rhimes-diversity-award_n_4674147.html.

While shows like Sleepy Hollow and the others I mentioned above should be applauded for their inclusive nature I feel like we shouldn’t even be talking about this anymore, however, just like with LGBT representation in the media we will never achieve full parity until the executives in charge of the networks, cable outlets and movie studios get their heads out of the sand and realize that it is 2014 and they should wake up to the reality of the world around them.