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Why The Big Decision The Oscars Just Made Is So Important

Since the advent of awards ceremonies in the entertainment industry, the upper echelon of achievements has been getting your hands on one of those shiny, gold Oscar statues. Considering the statue itself is modeled after Mexican actor Emilio Fernandez, via Public Radio International, who was one of the most prolific actor/directors in cinematic history, the Academy's most recent announcement feels like it is a long time coming. 

On September 8, 2020, according to Entertainment Weekly, the Academy announced new standards for inclusion in their Best Picture category. The news is seen by most as a big step towards more representation in film. According to an official statement, the standards "are designed to encourage equitable representation on and off screen in order to better reflect the diversity of the movie-going audience." This recent development injects some hope into the awards ceremony. The Academy Awards have been limping along in recent times, even going host-less for the past two years. The lack of a singular persona for the public to focus on during the academy's most important night has shoved the members themselves into the spotlight, forcing them to make changes — particularly since talks about the Academy's exclusion of people of color has swirled around for years, as demonstrated by the yearly trending hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, which the New York Times reports was started by finance lawyer named April Reign, who noticed that all twenty acting nominations went to white actors, two years in a row. 

The film industry's biggest night has, undeniably, been whitewashed for a long time. With the current cultural climate surrounding race planted firmly in the spotlight, this news is a welcome change. The Oscars remains a crowning achievement for anyone in the film industry, and its desire to change is as important as it sounds.

Starting in 2022, Best Picture nominees will need to meet requirements

The Academy has been drowning in hot water. The organization itself remains predominantly white (81 percent) and male (67 percent), as a New York Times piece notes, which explains why it's taken so long for these needed changes, particularly when combined with the paperwork required. The new standards don't call for creators to change their creative or marketing process, but there's a clear message about inclusion that will hopefully nudge the industry in the right direction: "The aperture must widen to reflect our diverse global population in both the creation of motion pictures and in the audiences who connect with them," Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson said in a statement. "The Academy is committed to playing a vital role in helping make this a reality. We believe these inclusion standards will be a catalyst for long-lasting, essential change in our industry."

Starting in 2022, filmmakers must submit a confidential Academy Inclusion Standards form to be considered in the Best Picture category. As of 2024, it will be required for films to meet two of four established criteria. The criteria not only focuses on who is in front of the camera, but also, inclusion amongst the production team. That distinction has some people remaining doubtful as to whether the new standards will truly usher in change. The doubt arises from both sides of the argument — too much for some, not enough for others. 

Certainly, though, this is a step in the right direction. Someday, hopefully, the majority of popular movies will display a level of diversity that matches the audiences who love them. Wakanda forever.