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The Oscars and the Challenge of Representation

Updated: Oct 5

BY: Wais Hundekar

Our culture is influenced by entertainment around us. Whether it be a new show sparking a discussion about prison reform, or a movie revealing the corruption surrounding the start of a company, these productions change the way we perceive our world. Ideally, these forms of entertainment are perpetuating notions that benefit our society. Perhaps that is why, in light of the many social movements happening in our day and age, the Oscars are working towards equity in the form of new representation and inclusion requirements in order to qualify for the Academy Award for Best Picture. 

The Oscars have started rolling out rules that will take effect in 2024 in regards to the Best Picture. To qualify for Best Picture, a film must meet two out of four inclusion standards: 

  • Standard A focuses on the on-screen representation of minority groups, with criteria such as casting a member of an underrepresented ethnic or racial group, or a storyline focusing on a minority group; 

  • Standard B focuses on representation in the creative leadership and department heads;

  • Standard C focuses on industry access and internship opportunities for minorities; and

  • Standard D focuses on the representation of the audience development team.

The full list of criteria is available on the Oscars website.

The aim of these rules is to increase diversity at the Oscars, where minorities have been historically underrepresented. In 2012, a Los Angeles Times investigation found that the Oscar membership was 93% white and 77% men. The hope for these rules is for these numbers to become more diverse, and to create opportunities for minorities to succeed in the field. 

Of course, as with all things, there are criticisms of these new rules. The most common argument is that these new rules are restrictive and do not allow for complete creative freedom. This is a genuine concern, as restricting art would also be restricting the expression of the people, which is something that cannot be taken lightly. In response to these claims, producer Devon Franklin says during a Times interview:

We anticipated this. We knew this was going to be a conversation. We knew people would have various reactions. But we felt that once you drill down on the actual standards themselves, you’ll see that there’s tremendous flexibility. It only enhances creativity and only enhances the definition of excellence and is not restrictive in any way at all.”

He expresses his belief that the incredible amount of flexibility will ensure that no damage will be done to the creative freedom of the work.

Another argument is that these rules are not doing enough. A review by the Washington Post 

found that in the last 15 years, 73% of Best Picture winners would have been eligible, and many others would have been with a few minor tweaks. This evidence suggests that the inclusion rules have less of an effect than initially anticipated, and perhaps different rules would be better suited to increasing diversity. Whether the aim is for racial equity or equal opportunity, a separate discussion is in order.

Implementing inclusion requirements is a sign of where society is currently headed. The increased pressure to advocate for social equality carries itself throughout every part of our lives. Whether these rules will increase meaningful representation or have other consequences remains to be seen. Once a few years have passed, perhaps then we can truly see the big picture. 


*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.


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