A recent article from the Los Angeles Times shocked no one when it revealed that Academy Voters are 94% white and 77% male, with a median age of 62. This explains why the Academy keeps nominating the same sorts of films and performances over and over again. It explains why — as the latest installment of Feminist Frequency points out — only two of this year’s ten Best Picture nominees pass the Bechdel test for women in film. It explains why The Help was nominated, why Elizabeth Olsen was snubbed, why, back in 2008, Hollywood showered patronizing love on the British made Slumdog Millionaire while ignoring India’s deserving submission, a movie that actually came from the film industry that the Best Picture winner was referencing. In short, these numbers explain a lot. And they make me wonder why we continue to allow the Oscars to hold so much sway?
The problem is that the demographics that make up the Academy are really the demographics that make up the film industry. Voter membership is gained after establishing oneself in a sphere of filmmaking, and the LA times found that the largest concentrations of women voters were in fields, like screenwriting, where women in Hollywood tend to work. Mainstream filmmaking continues to be a relatively immobile institution dominated by old white men. Women are making films, and that’s fantastic. But some serious change has to take place before we start seeing true equality behind and in front of the camera.