This is the top story from our daily newsletter published on September 15, 2020. To have this and more delivered directly to your inbox scroll down and enter your email or click here to sign up.
And the Best Picture Goes To: “The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has recently announced their plan to increase diversity and inclusivity in its biggest honor, ‘Best Picture’” James Barberis reports for FSUNews. “They released updated guidelines that state that in order for a film to be eligible to be nominated for ‘Best Picture,’ it must meet at least two of the four new ‘standards.’ Reuters adds that, “The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which has been criticized for honoring few movies and creators of color, said the standards represent a new phase of a 5-year effort to promote diversity on and off screen. The rules lay out percentages or numbers of actors, production staff, marketing staff and internships on a movie that must be filled by people of color, women, people with disabilities or people from the LGBTQ community.” Here is a summarized version of the Academy’s new guidelines for you to create your own opinion. The full guidelines can be found on the Academy’s website. This is how the announcement is playing out across the political spectrum:
On the Left: Chris Feil of Vanity Fair says, “The Oscars’ New Inclusion Standards Don’t Go Far Enough.” In his piece Feil notes that, “the announcement marked a major milestone for the Academy, which has spent the last five years trying to diversify its annual list of Oscar nominees (and the organization’s own ranks).” However, if you “take a closer look, you’ll find that every recent best-picture nominee would have easily fulfilled these criteria [already].” For example, two of the four new Academy standards mandate that “distribution and financing companies provide paid internships or training opportunities to members of [underrepresented] groups, and requires a film’s team to hire multiple people from these groups at the executive level in marketing, publicity, or distribution.” Pointing to the New York Times, Feil says, “most productions with Oscar hopes can easily meet [these] standards, particularly if they’re released by major studios—enormous companies that already have large internship programs, marketing operations, and publicity engines in place.” Continuing, Feil states that “clearly, what recent Oscar history shows is that these ‘new’ standards are easily achievable for Oscar hopefuls” so “the question we should be asking… [is] whether the implementation of these criteria will actually create the significant change the industry needs. Can these standards increase not only opportunities but accountability?” Feil says, “Given how readily 15 years of Oscar films breeze past the standards, it seems obvious that the answer to that question is no. If the proposed criteria are already being met, then they aren’t really a meaningful push for inclusion; they’re a symbolic effort that only maintains the status quo.”
On the Right: Deroy Murdock, a Black opinion writer for Fox News, says, “These rules resemble a mind-numbing blend of Critical Race Theory and a verbose algebra word problem.” Pointing to recent nominations for Best Pictures, Murdock sees major problems with these new mandated standards. For example, “Given that the film ‘1917’ concerns British and German soldiers battling in World War I, it’s hard to imagine how this necessarily, overwhelmingly White film (which deserved this year’s Best Picture award) could have navigated this maze of racial trenches.” Similarly, “While the necessarily overwhelmingly Asian ‘Parasite’ filled a decade’s worth of boxes for that ethnic group, the South Korean picture did little to nothing for Black and Brown people in Hollywood, largely since Seoul is hardly a Black or Hispanic hotbed. Murdock argues that actually “The best way to get Blacks, Hispanics and other minorities more and better work in Hollywood is for [the Academy] to encourage the studios to produce more movies that tell the stories of Black and Hispanic achievement.” Murdock says, “Blacks, Hispanics, and other minorities have struggled, failed, prospered, failed, and then risen to even greater heights. They have soared in business, education, entertainment, family life, literature, medicine, politics, romance, science, sports and beyond. Tell their stories, and people who look like them will find plenty to do in Hollywood.” Concluding, Murdock writes, “This is the natural way to accomplish what Team Oscar is trying to do in the most ham-fisted and artless manner imaginable. Until [the Academy] projects something sensible, as above, some brave soul in Tinseltown should grab a megaphone and yell, ‘Cut!'”
Flag This: It’s impossible to ignore the fact that the injection of politics and social justice initiatives into the show business industry has severely impacted their appeal to the American public. Using statistical, fact-based ratings illuminates the trend. For example, “The 2020 Academy Awards ceremony saw its TV audience shrink to an all-time low,” Niall McCarthy writes for Statista (pictured above). “According to Nielsen, the live show had an average of 23.6 million viewers, a 20 percent decline on last year when 29.5 million tuned in. The previous record low was in 2018 when 26.6 million viewers watched the ceremony.” To be fair, other reasons could have factored into the ratings slide. “The most obvious reason is a boom in streaming which has led to noticeable decline in live TV viewing.” Others also suggested that an earlier date in the 2020 calendar eliminated some of the event’s hype.” The issue isn’t Hollywood-centric, however. Sports leagues are seeing similar trends. There was a massive decline in TV viewership of NFL games in the United States between 2015 and 2017. Colin Kaepernick began his protests before the 2016 NFL season, when he opted to kneel during the US national anthem. Viewership bounced back in 2018 and 2019, but then last Thursday’s season-opening matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans attracted only 19.3 million viewers. That marks a 12.3% drop from last year’s ratings.” Some will note that the 2015 to 2017 decline straddles the first year of the Trump presidency, so maybe it’s his fault. Others will point out that this past weekend games featured countless displays of players protesting against racial injustice. This includes teams standing during the playing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is referred to as the Black national anthem, and others remaining inside the locker room during the Star-Spangled Banner. Maybe it’s their fault. Regardless of whose fault it is, what this tells us is that Americans are sick of politics seeping into every facet of society. Movies and sports used to be an escape from reality. Many now believe that they’re both just amplifying issues they wish they could get away from, if even just for an hour or two.