Report: The Majority Of Oscar Voters Are Old, White And Male
2:00 pm, February 19th | by Amy Tennery
With the Academy Awards around the corner, a fascinating new report from the Los Angeles Times has peeled back the curtain on one of the most secretive professional organizations in the country: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
And while the group’s roster has long remained under wraps, new revelations about the academy’s racial, gender and age demographics raise troubling questions about the industry’s most vaunted awards — and the industry itself.
But first, a look at the LA Times’ findings (you can read their whole report here — it’s well worth your time): By their estimate, academy voters are roughly 94 precent caucasian and 77 percent male, with a median age of 62. (For anyone wondering why the Harry Potter pictures got boxed out, that data might lend some clues.) Even more staggering is the Times’ claim that, of all those invited to join the academy in 2011, just 30 percent were women — and 10 percent were non-white. The demographics are outrageously skewed and seemingly little to nothing is being done about this. Your sneaking suspicions: confirmed.
Seriously, though, this report raises a chicken-or-the-egg-esque question about gender (and race, and age, and…) in Hollywood. Sure, it’s no shock that the movie industry is, on the whole, dominated by older white men. But can we really point to that as an excuse for the academy’s uniform makeup? (After all, one could make the argument that there aren’t as many women voters because there aren’t as many women film execs, directors and producers.) Or is the film industry structured that way because we have yet another professional group that’s more inclined to respond to movies made by and for them?
The latter could be the case, particularly when you look at how valuable it is for a movie to win an Oscar, or even generate Oscar buzz. Yes, money talks. Business Insider noted that Best Picture winners usually rake in another $14 million to $15 million in box office revenue, while many films that were just nominated between 2007 and 2012 earned as much as $20 million more. Translation: There’s major financial incentive to make a movie with Oscar power. And there’s also a reason that movies about women and/or wizards often don’t fare so well with Oscar voters — old white guys don’t always respond so well to them (the Times cites “The King’s Speech’s” triumph over “The Social Network” as an example of this phenomenon in play).
So how do we change this? Push more women to apply to the academy? Or start showing the the Oscars don’t push our dollars?