Ava DuVernay on Oscars diversity pledge: 'Shame is a helluva motivator'
Ava Duvernay, John Leguizamo, and the creator of #OscarsSoWhite are some of the names to have weighed in on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences new membership rules to increase diversity and representation at the Oscars.
The Academy announced a sweeping plan on Friday to change the make-up of its voting body. “Beginning later this year, each new member’s voting status will last 10 years, and will be renewed if that new member has been active in motion pictures during that decade,” the Academy said in a statement explaining the changes. “In addition, members will receive lifetime voting rights after three 10-year terms; or if they have won or been nominated for an Academy Award. We will apply these same standards retroactively to current members. In other words, if a current member has not been active in the last 10 years they can still qualify by meeting the other criteria. Those who do not qualify for active status will be moved to emeritus status. Emeritus members do not pay dues but enjoy all the privileges of membership, except voting. This will not affect voting for this year’s Oscars.”
“One good step in a long, complicated journey for people of color + women artists,” DuVernay wrote on Twitter of the change. She then added, “Shame is a helluva motivator.”
“We’ve all felt shame even when we didn’t believe we were wrong. It’s the fact that EVERYONE ELSE thinks you’re wrong. Fix it mode kicks in,” DuVernay wrote. “Marginalized artists have advocated for Academy change for DECADES. Actual campaigns. Calls voiced FROM THE STAGE. Deaf ears. Closed minds. Whether it’s shame, true feelings, or being dragged kicking + screaming, just get it done. Because the alternative isn’t pretty.”
For the second consecutive year, every acting nominee at the Academy Awards is white, a fact many have blamed on not just the Academy itself, but Hollywood studios at large.
“As I see it, the Academy Awards is not where the ‘real’ battle is,” director Spike Lee wrote in an open letter this week. “It’s in the executive office of the Hollywood studios and TV and cable networks. This is where the gatekeepers decide what gets made and what gets jettisoned to ‘turnaround’ or scrap heap. This is what’s important. The gatekeepers. Those with ‘the green light’ vote. As the great actor Leslie Odom Jr. sings and dances in the game-changing Broadway musical Hamilton, ‘I wanna be in the room where it happens.’ People, the truth is we ain’t in those rooms, and until minorities are, the Oscar nominees will remain Lilly white.”
Writing on Twitter after news of the Academy’s changes broke, actor John Leguizamo echoed Lee’s statements.
“[O]scars took big step today 2 assure diversity @SpikeLee @rosieperezbklyn @SofiaVergara,” Leguizamo wrote. “[W]ish studios’d catch up cause therein lies [the problem].”
Over the last two years, the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite trended on Twitter in the wake of the nominations. The creator of the trend, April Reign, wrote Friday that she was “floored” by the Academy’s announcement.
“Thank you for sharing the news. I wouldn’t have known for hours. Thank you so much for the support,” she wrote on Twitter, alongside the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. She later added, “Who’s buying the first round?”