Thursday, January 29, 2015

#AllWhiteOscars is 'Business as Usual'

Exoticized "Others" the Exception, Not Rule at Academy Awards

There has been a fair amount of criticism of the Academy Awards since the release of the nomination, prompting the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. The argument is particularly strong that the Academy Awards favors white actors and actresses because Selma is nominated for best film, although none of its cast or director is nominated in the corresponding categories. As it stands for Latinos, Mexico-born Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu seems to be a favorite in the best director category for Birdman, although this could be attributed to the greater acceptance of foreign-born non-Whites (Villanueva argues this as early as his 1993 book Bootstraps).

I am a fan of Inarritu's films Amores Perros and Babel, so I wish the best for his exposure; however, the benchmark for the Academy Awards seems heavily influenced by the voters who are predominantly older, white males. Outside of film, NPR Latino USA notes similar issues with diversity in video games:

"According to a study published in the journal “New Media and Society” in 2009, only 3% of all video games characters can be identified as Latino. And of that 3%, only 5% are characters you can use to play."

(Lucha Libre from

Comparisons have been drawn between the staff at Fox News and the Oscar nominations, which follows in line with what I address in Reclaiming Poch@ Pop as I discuss Al Madrigal's appearance on the Daily Show and his meta-criticism of the Daily Show's hiring practices. 
The Shockingly Low Statistics in Print and Television News Media
Madrigal tongue-in-cheek explains:

"[President Obama]’s had his whole term to do something about immigration and he’s just bringing it up now. I mean that would be like, I don’t know, having your own show for twelve years, hiring every race and religion and creed of correspondent under the sun—Indians, Brits, Blacks, two Canadians—then when the demographic numbers become completely unavoidable, you hope to make up for it by googling ‘Mexican comedian’ and voila."

(Daily Show with Jon Stewart)

In Hector Amaya's "Citizenship, Diversity and Ugly Betty," he draws on data from numerous studies that found Latinos accounted for at most 4% of English-language print news personnel.

"In journalism, Latinos account for 4 percent of personnel in print news, and 6 percent of news staffers in English-language television (NAHJ, 2007). Bob Papper (2003: 21) has found that Latinos account for only 1.5 percent of radio newsstaffers and, in television, for only 4.4 percent of news directors. The lack of Latino personnel in news has a predictable effect on coverage. Federico Subervi’s latest report on Latino representation in television news media shows that stories about Latinas/os account for only 0.82 percent in the major television networks and CNN (2005: 4) (Amaya 2010, p. 806)

As with the Oscars, apologists are quick to defenders are quick to dismiss allegations of discrimination by arguing that there just isn't the supply of Latinos wanting to fill these positions. What films like Selma demonstrate is that there is the presence of such films that deserve to be recognized just as there are actors and journalists who want to fill positions, but those in positions to hire fail in efforts of inclusivity and representing the percentages of the national demographic.

See the Daily Show clip below:

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