The Oscars’ New Diversity Rules Are Sweeping but Safe

Although the initiative is meant to encourage major changes, the best-picture qualifications aren’t as strict as they may seem.

By , New York Times

In 2015, after the Oscars announced a set of 20 all-white acting nominees, the then-president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was asked whether the group had a diversity problem.

“Not at all,” the leader, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, replied. “Not at all.”

What a difference five years makes. After a second all-white group of actors was nominated and the activist April Reign’s #OscarsSoWhite hashtag became a rallying cry, the academy began taking great strides to diversify a membership that had been largely white and male for nine decades. Those inclusion goals were met months ago, but this week, the academy unveiled an even more ambitious diversity initiative with the intention of reshaping not just how movies are rewarded, but also who’s hired to make them in the first place.

Laramie Eppler, left, Brad Pitt and Tye Sheridan in “The Tree of Life.” Though the film is about a white family, the behind-the-scenes talent would satisfy Oscar rules for diversity.Credit…Fox Searchlight Pictures

Meant to take effect by the 96th Oscars in 2024, these new guidelines will require films to meet two of four diversity standards to be eligible for a best-picture nomination. It’s an initiative that could, on its face, encourage studios to enact more equitable hiring practices and broaden the range of stories that are told.

Still, though the announcement has sent shock waves through Hollywood, the new guidelines aren’t as strict as they may initially appear.

The first set of stipulations, grouped as Standard A, has already earned the most attention, and with good reason: It’s meant to encourage diversity in front of the camera for an industry that still defaults to white actors….Standard B is focused on hiring behind the scenes…. 

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