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Oscars seek to increase diversity with newly proposed rules. Will it work?

April 23, 2021
Two rows of Academy Award statuettes lined up backstage.“We found loopholes that may make it easy for any wide release film to qualify” under the proposed rules, write Bethany Lacina and Ryan Hecker ’23 in their analysis for the Washington Post. (Getty Images photo)

Last September, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced new diversity and inclusion standards for its top award, Best Picture, to be in force starting in 2024. But before critics of the group’s past selections celebrate, a University of Rochester political scientist offers a spoiler alert.

Bethany Lacina, an associate professor of political science, and undergraduate political science student Ryan Hecker ’23 conducted an analysis for the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage site. “We found loopholes that may make it easy for any wide release film to qualify” under the proposed rules, they write.

In exploring how new diversity and inclusion rules could affect future Oscar nominations, Lacina and Hecker find that, based on the current draft proposals, a wide enough range of films would qualify to render the new rules toothless in broadening representation among Best Picture winners.

The Rochester team analyzed if the 51 Best Picture nominees from 2016 to 2021 would have qualified under the new rules (by achieving any two out of four new inclusion standards). They gathered gender, sex, and ethnic information on cast and crew from IMDb and found that more than half (31 of 51) of the films met standard A for on-screen representation, with a non-white lead or major supporting character, or a story centered on someone from one of the historically under-represented groups. Forty-two of the nominated films met standard B, for behind-camera diversity, with at least two people from underrepresented groups in the top behind-the-scenes roles or at least six ethnic and racial minorities in important jobs.

“Even though we could not explore every possible way to be eligible for an Oscar, we are reasonably confident that all the films up for Best Picture since 2016 could qualify for nomination under the proposed diversity rules,” Lacina and Hecker write.

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Category: Voices & Opinion