The new Oscars diversity rules are performative


Photo Amelia Foster

The new standards for eligibility for nomination for Best Picture, as released by the Academy Awards.

Amelia Foster, Print Managing Editor

The Academy Awards claim that their mission is to uphold excellence and inspire imagination in the film scene, yet their award show is predictable every year with nominees centered around cishet (cisgender, heterosexual) white men and women. When #OscarsSoWhite begins to rightfully trend, the Academy says they’ll do better next year, and their new rules for Best Picture are supposed to be a sign of that. If only they actually helped.

There are four sets of rules, explained in the attached picture. Each Standard has its own domain, with Standard A guiding on-camera diversity, Standard B guiding behind the scenes diversity and Standards C and D guiding diversity from the studio and film executives. They may seem strict, but only two out of the four standards must be fulfilled, and not every point of those two standards must be met. For Standards A and B, only two of the three must be met, and Standard C only requires one of them to be met.

When taken at face value, the rules seem sufficient, but they won’t be enough to cause real change. A film could have a cast composed only of cishet white men, but if the film’s distributor has two gay interns and a female executive on marketing, it would still be eligible for nomination.

Then there’s the matter of when the rules go into effect, which is the year 2024. The purpose is likely to give time to adjust to these changes for movies already being made, but these rules are so bare minimum the time shouldn’t be given. Award-worthy diverse movies come out every year, and an award show would still be possible if the guidelines were implemented sooner rather than later.

Moreover, these rules are supposed to sponsor diversity, but they only apply to Best Picture. I understand that they can’t exactly say that cishet white men aren’t allowed to be nominated for wards—although I do believe their talents are easily overhyped—but it glosses over the fact that the 2020 Oscars only had one person of color nominated in the acting categories.

The Academy Awards have a responsibility to promote true diversity, but these rules come off as performative. There are ways to follow these rules without ever once changing who is represented on screen, and that means they aren’t enough.