Saturday, January 23, 2016

Hollywood, Diversity, and Common Sense



The complaints about the Oscar nominations are far from new. You'd think that by now the idea that an awards program should have racial diversity would have been dismissed as foolish and unrealistic. Take an extreme example: If one year, 90 percent of the nominees for Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Director are black, is that powerful evidence of discrimination? Should there be some form of intervention to ensure that those numbers are reduced? And later, if all of the winners for those categories are black, does that mean anything other than all of the winners happened to be black and they were deemed to have earned the awards?

What would a nomination mean if it were known that the only reason why the person was nominated was skin color? It would be insulting and condescending. No one would take the awards seriously.

Let's stipulate that the best people are not always nominated. Even if they are, the best performance is not always given the Oscar. The process is imperfect and sometimes just flat-out dumb. Did The English Patient really deserve Best Picture? Should John Wayne's performance in True Grit have gotten a Best Actor nod over Dustin Hoffman's in Midnight Cowboy?

Putting quotas into a process that is awash with subjectivity would increase, not reduce, the number of poor decisions. It would also announce that merit is secondary. If that day arrives, Oscar will really be carried out in a box.

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