Big changes for representation and diversity are set to hit the Oscars, and SNL alum Andy Samberg has some harsh words for anyone who opposes them. After many criticized the Academy Awards for predominantly focusing on white talent, the awards body responded with a set of new diversity stipulations that competing films and categories must meet for consideration. While seen as a step in the right direction by many, the new rules have still caused a stir.
In 2015, after the announcement of the year’s Oscar hopefuls, Twitter user April Reign began the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, which quickly went viral. It soon saw the likes of Hollywood POC including Moonlight director Barry Jenkins and When They See Us series creator Ava DuVernay join the conversation. Despite this, the following year’s Academy Award nominations went to predominantly white competitors, sparking further outrage and debate. Finally, two months ago, The Academy released new rules for eligibility, in a detailed list that insists on racial and gender equality in front and behind the camera. The announcement caused controversy, leading former Golden Globe Award co-host Samberg to step into the debate.
On the Variety Awards Circuit Podcast, while discussing the cast diversity of his sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine Samberg was not one to mince words when the topic was brought up in the context of the new Oscars rules. The comedy star had this to say:
Also the Oscar thing… people having issues with that is insane. Like, the parameters if you look at them closely… you could have the whitest cast in the history of cinema and still very easily meet them, by just doing a few keys roles behind the camera. It’s… people who have problems with it can f-ck off.
The new rules are set to take effect by 2024, which include necessities such as one lead actor to be from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group, and at least two creative department heads being women, LGBTQ+, disabled or from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group.
Even though the likes of black led films 12 Years A Slave, Moonlight and Green Book have taken home the Best Picture prize in recent years, the underrepresentation in a predominantly white dominated industry is still very prevalent. In fact, Green Book’s win was criticized by prolific black director Spike Lee last year. With plenty of cinematic work this year helmed by people of color and folks in the LGBTQ+ community that’s more than worth the attention of The Academy, the lesbian-centric Happiest Season that currently holds a 90 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes for instance, it is truly puzzling to think why people may have a problem with the new rules, set to champion this kind of work. Even for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Samberg claimed that the diverse cast of the show wasn’t initially intentional, and “had no difficulty pulling the trigger on it because they’re great”. With such a plethora of talent bursting from underrepresented groups, the comedian’s comment couldn’t come at a better time.
The Academy Awards are set to be very different next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning the awards show is going to have to adapt to more than ever in its history. With industry stars such as Samberg preemptively calling out opposers to the new diversity rules, a change that has been a long time coming, it looks like there’s no way of going back to old habits. Hopefully that rings true in the new year.