This Year's Oscars Are Overwhelmingly White and Male

After Ava DuVernay became the first black woman nominated for a Golden Globe, we wondered: could she win an Oscar for "Selma"? But when the nominations were announced this morning, not only was DuVernay snubbed, but a score of diverse filmmakers were left out of the year’s biggest ceremony.

All 20 acting nominees this year are white. The last time that happened was in 1996. The lack of diversity isn’t only obvious in terms of race, either: all five of the 2015 Oscar nominated directors and fourteen screenwriters are men, making this year’s pool of contenders the most male since 2000. In 1996, The Atlantic notes, there was no clear Oscar contender featuring people of color, whereas "the 2015 list feels all the more galling because David Oyelowo’s performance [in "Selma"] and Ava DuVernay’s direction were not just extraordinarily good, but also very Oscar-friendly.” 

Oyelowo and DuVernay were nominated for Golden Globes, and though they didn’t win, the ceremony honored a number of diverse actors and characters including Gina Rodriguez, a Latina actress on a never-before-nominated network and "Transparent," a show about a parent in gender transition. Those victories don’t seem to have affected this year's Oscar nominations.

2014’s Oscars seemed to bode well, too: Lupita Nyong’o won Best Supporting Actress for her role in "12 Years a Slave," which also won Best Picture. Steve McQueen was nominated for directing the film, but Alfonso Cuaron won for "Gravity." "12 Years a Slave" also won for Adapted Screenplay; Julie Delpy was among the screenwriter nominees for "Before Midnight." Men and women of color—and women in general—found some visibility, and in Hollywood we’ve learned to applaud every piece of progress.

The slow movement is due, in part, to the decision-makers: When the Los Angeles Times surveyed the 6,028 Academy Award voters in 2013, they found that they were 94% white and 77% male with an average age of 63. The Academy is working to accept more members to up diversity, but progress is slow. Especially considering the Oscars can give actors and filmmakers a leg-up in Hollywood, it’s high time the “biggest night of the year” recognized diverse, deserving people.