This year was perhaps the most dramatic year yet for the Oscars, and for all the wrong reasons. It truly was the slap heard (and felt) around the world. What happened between the Smiths and Chris Rock left its mark in more ways than one. While the viral moment was of course shocking to viewers and attendees, the evening marked historical significance regarding inclusivity and representation in entertainment. Will Packer made his mark as the first Black Oscar producer. A film predominantly featuring people with disabilities made history at the Oscars this year, as did a queer woman of color, and yet much of the chatter has been focused on a controversial act.
In the last year, the academy unveiled an ambitious diversity initiative intended to impact how movies are rewarded and who is hired to create them. This initiative is meant to go into effect by 2024 and will require films to meet qualifying diversity standards in order to be considered eligible for nomination as best picture.
At this year’s Oscars, these historic moments where Troy Kotsur, star of “CODA,” became the first Deaf man to win an acting Oscar, taking the award for Best Supporting Actor in the film, was overshadowed by the incident between the Smith’s and Chris Rock. Another major win includes Ariana DeBose. She made history times two, as the first Latina to win a film award, and the first queer woman of color to be recognized by the guild for acting when she accepted the award for Best Supporting Actress in West Side Story.
As one of the country’s leading Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion speakers I’d like to make it clear that the real topic of conversation here should continue to be focused on the fact that these historic moments where actors with disabilities or varying degrees of representation were given the spotlight they deserve and should continue to spark change in the entertainment industry where diversity and inclusion are often lacking. Oscars
There is a strong lack of diversity in the entertainment industry in general. Last year’s annual Hollywood Diversity Report released by UCLA showed that people of color made up 39.7% of film leads in 2020. While this was a marked increase from the 10.5% represented in the 2011 report, this is only the beginning toward achieving true equality in representation. The differences in how actors are paid vary by race as well. For instance, films with BIPOC leads were more likely to have smaller budgets in 2020 than those with white and male leads which translates to unequal pay for talent.
Viewers, talent, and leaders in the film and entertainment industries must continue to demand an increasingly inadequate and equal representation. A film’s cast should be diverse enough to speak to the unique experiences of the audience as a whole, not just the historically targeted demographic of white men and women of privilege. Roles that are portraying people from specific ethnic, racial, or religious backgrounds should strive to employ actors and talent who come from those backgrounds themselves. The same goes for roles depicting various disabilities and sexual orientations or genders. Who better to capture the essence of these roles than those who live this life on a daily? Oscars
By bringing awareness to the lack of diversity and representation in entertainment, we can begin to make the first steps toward encouraging filmmakers to take the time to find diverse talent which will ultimately produce final works that represent the actual world in which we live, not the world that the film industry has historically created for us. Diversity and representation are important so that viewers feel seen and heard. It is important that the messaging we hear and come away with when consuming entertainment is authentic and captures the essence of the human experience in its entire spectrum. Children deserve to see themselves represented in the films and media they consume. People in the disability community deserve to see themselves represented fairly and authentically. The entertainment industry is meant to embody the depth of human existence and how can that be done with such a narrow lens?
So while much of the world is talking about the slap-heard-round-the-world, I ask you to instead focus your attention on this historic step toward a more diverse inclusive film experience. Oscars
Kim Crowder, Founder & CEO of Kim Crowder Consulting, is one of the country’s leading Anti-Racism, Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Speakers, Coaches, Trainers, and Consultants. Kim and her team work across industries serving U.S. and international markets, from retailers to insurers to governmental agencies and the social sector. From Adobe to Good Catch Foods to Target, the American Library Association, Receipt-Bank, HarperCollins Publishers, and on, Kim and her team provide leaders and companies actionable tools to move initiatives forward long term. Kim has been named by Forbes as one of the “Top Anti-Racism Educators Companies Need Now,” A Top 10 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Expert by All American, and Top Influential African-American Business Women To Follow by LinkedIn. She is also a member of the MIT Technology Review Global Panel and For(bes) The Culture. Oscars
She has been featured for her expertise by The New York Times, Business Insider, Cheddar News, The Tammi Mac Late Show, CBS, NBC, FOX, Katie Couric Media, regularly by Forbes, on Hubspot’s podcast, The Growth Show, Workology, and As Told By Nomads. Oscars