In a story published this weekend, The Los Angeles Times went deep on the Academy's membership rolls and, after a lengthy investigation, found that — the occasional Elvis paramour-turned-nun aside — the secretive governing body behind the Oscars is mostly a bunch of old white guys.
As many suspected, the Academy's 5,765 voting members are more reflective of a Republican presidential roster than the moviegoing public: nearly 94% white and 77% male, according to the reporters, John Horn, Nicole Sperling and Doug Smith.
"The Times found that some of the academy's 15 branches are almost exclusively white and male," they write. "Caucasians currently make up 90% or more of every academy branch except actors, whose roster is 88% white. The academy's executive branch is 98% white, as is its writers branch. Men compose more than 90% of five branches, including cinematography and visual effects. Of the academy's 43-member board of governors, six are women; public relations executive Cheryl Boone Isaacs is the sole person of colour."
The Academy leadership has said that it wants to diversify: "We've been trying to reach out to the constituency and we're looking for help," the group's president, Tom Sherak, said, adding: "If you are sitting waiting for us to find your name in our make-believe book and we are going to call you, we are not going to do that. Come to us, we'll get you in."
And some blame inequality across the industry for its thin ranks of minorities. In a study by the Writers Guild of America, West, women made up 17% of film writers; they are 19% of the Academy's screenwriting branch, according to the article.
"If the industry as a whole is not doing a great job in opening up its ranks, it's very hard for us to diversify our membership," Phil Alden Robinson, a writer, director and veteran Academy governor, told the paper.
But that argument does not sit well with some members of the entertainment industry. The African-American character actor Bernie Casey, who said he left the group because of the imbalance, told The Los Angeles Times that "people of color are always peripheral" in Hollywood. "Asians, Latinos, black people — you never see them," he said. "We are 320 million people in America and about 48 million black people and the same of Latin descent — but you would not believe that based on what you see in films and television shows."
The Academy recently restructured its rules for becoming a member, with three options: get an Oscar nomination; get an application and recommendation from two members of a branch; or get an endorsement from the branch membership committee or Academy staff, according to the report. Once candidates are voted in, most people accept nominations, though there are some notable holdouts, like Woody Allen and Viggo Mortensen. Then again, there are some surprising members, too, like Meat Loaf.
"I think they voted me in because I have different aspects than a lot of normal academy members," he told the paper. "In that sense, I'm part of the diversity that they talk about."
For all his 'Bat Out of Hell' antics, Meat Loaf does appear to have fairly traditional views on cinema. His favorite movie of 2011 was War Horse, because, the paper said, "it made him cry five times."
New York Times