Awards season is once again upon us, and I think it’s safe to say that the anticipation feels different. Slightly less concerned with the cutest couples and best dressed on the red carpets, we wait for nominees and awardees with reluctant expectancy. For three years, ever since April Reign (@ReignOfApril on Twitter) started the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, diversity has been at that forefront of conversations about film and television awards shows and their governing institutions. Each one is under scrutiny to get it right in terms of representation.
Some of the major award shows went out of their way to make their efforts known, like the 2017 Emmys, which were jam-packed with self-absorbed pats on the back about all the strides being made towards inclusion in the television world. This year saw Moonlight become the first film with an all-Black cast to win an Oscar for best picture. The SAGs were ahead of the game in 2017, with "unsung heroes" dominating the winner's list. As were the Golden Globes, which honoured black-ish, Atlanta, and Viola Davis in Fences.
Despite pressure from viewers and performers to be the best at diversity, there is surprisingly little statistical information to ascertain which of these major awarding institutions is actually doing it well. Not a single one of them have aggregated their data to chart the progression of inclusion over the years. I certainly think it’s worth paying a summer intern for each award show to compile these databases. I did my best with an assortment of Wikipedia roundups and website searches, and this is what I deduced about each awards show's track record.
The easiest way to think about these four awarding bodies and their views on racial inclusion is to consider their age. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is the oldest among them, having been awarding Oscars since 1929. Imagine talking to your 78-year-old white grandfather about suddenly getting more Black friends after years of hanging out with his other white friends and their wives all of his life. It's going to take some elbow grease. AMPAS has awarded over 3,000 statues to more than 900 nominees since the physical Oscar became a thing. Only about 120 of those nominees are people of colour. There is a lot of work to be done if the Oscars want to be less white.
While they’ve been killing it over the last two years — and bragging about it — the Emmys are in a similar boat. Their numbers are even harder to hone in on because of the split between the Daytime and Primetime ceremonies. But this chart in the Washington Post shows that since 2010, they’ve been comparable to, and sometimes way more white than the Oscars in terms of awarding actors.
The SAGs, the darling millennial of the awards show bunch, have women everywhere but are just okay with their 2018 nominations in terms of race. Historically, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, started in the ‘90s, definitely have a more consistent track record with inclusion. Part of this is because they haven’t had as much time to fuck up. Additionally, because it’s all about actors recognising each other, there are more intimate connections to people of colour in the industry.
The only way to true inclusion in Hollywood is to bring diverse identities into the fold behind the camera as well as in front of it. If there more offerings from people of colour, it will be harder for the AMPAS, SAG, Television Academy, and Hollywood Foreign Press Association to avoid them. But they should still hire those interns so we can do the due diligence.