Minorities Make Up Nearly a Third of New Oscar Voters

LOS ANGELES — Racing to make good on a 2016 pledge to double female and minority membership by the end of next year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said on Monday that it would increase the Oscar voting pool to roughly 9,000 people, a new high.

By the academy’s count, about 50 percent of the 842 film industry professionals invited to become members this year are women, including stars like Lady Gaga (“A Star Is Born”), Gemma Chan (“Crazy Rich Asians”), Claire Foy (“First Man”), Elisabeth Moss (“Us”) and Letitia Wright (“Black Panther”). About 29 percent are minorities, including Jimmy Chin, who co-directed the Oscar-winning documentary “Free Solo,” and the “Girls Trip” writer Tracy Oliver.

Other notable invitees include the Scottish singer-songwriter Annie Lennox; Jamie Bell, whose credits include “Billy Elliot” and “Rocketman”; and Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the creative team behind movies like “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”

The new class would not do much to change the overall makeup of the elite group. If all the invitations are accepted — some people have declined in the past, one being Woody Allen — female membership will rise to 32 percent from 31 percent, according to the academy. The percentage of minority members would remain 16.

Last year, the academy extended invitations to 928 people, an increase from 774 the previous year. As recently as a decade ago, the Oscars organization limited its annual invitations to as few as 115, contending that small classes kept the professional caliber of members high.

That assertion was abandoned when the academy’s membership came under intense scrutiny in 2016, the second year in a row the organization did not nominate any minority actors for Oscars and overlooked films that focused on black characters for best picture nominations. Humiliated by the resulting #OscarsSoWhite outrage, academy leaders vowed to double female and minority membership by 2020.

In 2015, 25 percent of the members were female and 8 percent were minorities.

The manner in which the academy has expanded its ranks has rankled some longtime members, in part because they believe that membership should require considerable success. The problem: Women and minorities do not have anywhere near the opportunities of white men in Hollywood, especially in fields like directing.

Perhaps as a result, the academy’s directing branch invited only about 30 new members. The documentary branch, in contrast, has roughly 100 invitees, many of them from overseas.

In pushing for a more diverse membership, the academy has greatly expanded its foreign contingent — a necessity because Hollywood remains so overwhelmingly white and male. The latest invitees hail from 59 countries, the academy said.

Oscar nominees are not automatically invited to join. Yalitza Aparicio, who was nominated for best actress for “Roma” this year, was not on the academy’s list, for instance.

It is impossible to know if the academy’s diversity effort has affected the Oscars, but there are indications that it has. At the most recent Academy Awards, in February, the best picture selections ranged from the foreign-language “Roma” to “Black Panther,” “BlacKkKlansman” and “The Favourite,” which depicted a lesbian love triangle.

The selection of the winner, however, was criticized as business as usual. The membership chose “Green Book,” a segregation-era buddy film. While admired by some as a feel-good depiction of people uniting against the odds, the movie was criticized by others as a simplistic take on race relations, both woefully retrograde and borderline bigoted.


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