Los Angeles

USC Annenberg report examines lack of diversity in history of Oscars


LOS ANGELES (KABC) — The USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative analyzed data going back to the first Academy Awards in 1929, zeroing in on women and people of color among nominees and winners in feature films.

“When we look back across 95 years this is a fairly exclusionary institution,” said Stacy Smith, founder of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative.

The report found women make up 17% of nominees and less than 2% are women of color. The percentages among winners are about the same. “We’re still seeing women marginalized and excluded in some really important categories,” said Smith. “Cinematography, less than 1%”

In the history of the Academy, the representation of Black, Hispanic, Latino, and Asian American nominees and winners is 2%. It’s less than 1% for those who identify as Middle Eastern, North African or Indigenous. The report also tracked a 9 percentage point increase in the representation of people of color when comparing the eight years before and after the #OscarsSoWhite movement.

This year’s nominations are particularly historic for Asian American representation. Michelle Yeoh became the first Asian-identifying best actress nominee for her role in “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” The film also leads in Academy nominations overall.

“I think the last few years have been so significant for Asian American representation and visibility in Hollywood starting with ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ and then ‘Shang-Chi’ and then ‘Parasite,'” said Snehal Desai, producing artistic director of the East West Players, an Asian American theater founded in the 1960s.

The East West Players has established a legacy of challenging stereotypical roles and cultivating authentic storytelling.

“So many of the iconic works that we know in theater that feature Asian Americans — if you think about ‘South Pacific’ or ‘The King and I’ or ‘Miss Saigon’ – are actually not written by Asian Americans,” said Desai.

Many of those who worked and learned at East West Players went on to film and TV.

“We wanted to create a space where you could bring your whole self and that could be embraced,” said Desai.

“I think you’re seeing that now with actors in Hollywood,” he added.

The theater, like so many across the country, is still feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and welcoming audiences back to support their mission and art.

“For all the theaters here and nationally, it’s taken us a while and we’re feeling like we have to rebuild our audiences, but I also think that’s an opportunity for us to rebuild the audiences that reflect the world that we live in.”

The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative is also encouraging people to take an Oscars poll found at the top of the report, selecting their winner in each category.

“There’s still so far to go to have proportional representation to the world in which we live versus the world that Hollywood projects,” said Smith.


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