The LA Times put a fascinating article together concerning who, exactly, is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in terms of gender, race and age. Understanding this group should go a long way in understanding who gets nominated and who ultimately wins Hollywood’s top prize.
As it turns out, the data is both revealing and hilarious. (Oh, and you can see the nominees and winners here.)
There are 5,765 people that vote for the Oscars. They are:
- 94% Caucasian
- 2% Black
- Less than 2% Latino
- 77% male
- Median Age of 62
- 14% are Younger than 50 Years Old
94% Caucasian? That’s country-club white! I’m fairly certain I’m not 94% Caucasian! Clearly, if your organization is that white, it’s
- an amazing coincidence
- a result of lifetime membership
- only not entirely white due to tokenism
A median age of 62? I’m not trying to give the older generation a hard time, but are the filming Ensure commercials over there? And if 62 is the median age, then there must be a ton of old white dudes wandering around the joint to get their median age up that high. Wow. 14% under 50. Wow.
And yeah, dudes. I chose to say ‘dude’ as the Academy is a 3 to 1 sausage fest. 77% male + 94% white = a ton of monocles and several uttering of “Oh my!” followed quickly by, “Well, I never!”
Well maybe, guys, you should.
The academy is primarily a group of working professionals, and nearly 50% of the academy’s actors have appeared on screen in the last two years. But membership is generally for life, and hundreds of academy voters haven’t worked on a movie in decades.
Oh, so the members are not only nearly all from the same gender and racial group – they’re also out of touch with their industry. That’s just great. And just for giggles: 64% of Academy members have never even been nominated for an Oscar, never mind having won the award.
The Times found that some of the academy’s 15 branches are almost exclusively white and male. Caucasians currently make up 90% or more of every academy branch except actors, whose roster is 88% white. The academy’s executive branch is 98% white, as is its writers branch.
Men compose more than 90% of five branches, including cinematography and visual effects. Of the academy’s 43-member board of governors, six are women; public relations executive Cheryl Boone Isaacs is the sole person of color.
Well, it’s pretty hard to dole out the blanco salami in smaller portions when there’s so much of it.
NOT TO BE outdone, the New York Times published a fascinating story about the Academy Awards broadcast itself with specific regard to its declining ratings.
ABC estimated that this year’s Academy Awards broadcast, with two sparsely seen movies, “The Artist” and “The Iron Lady,” sweeping the top categories, drew about 39.3 million viewers, up 3.7 percent from last year. That’s about 13 percent of the United States population. Among adults 18 to 49, viewership was flat, at 14.9 million.
In the 1990s and shortly afterward, when populist movies like “Forrest Gump” and “Gladiator” won top prizes, the Oscars telecast routinely delivered about 45 million total viewers. The high point came in 1998, when the telecast delivered a peak audience of around 57.3 million.
Why it matters which movies won this year in terms of ratings, I don’t understand (I guess people saw Meryl Streep win again and were like, “Fuck this,” and switched the channel), particularly when several of the movies nominated for awards did fine at the box office. Pretty sure that Harry Potter picture did OK. Wasn’t The Help out for the entire summer? Seemed that way. And people were practically knocking each other over to praise Midnight in Paris – so I presume at least half of those people actually saw the movie.
But, the Academy Awards just isn’t the powerhouse it used to be – they want the show to be on the level with the Super Bowl and what not, but it’s just not happening as they’ve seen their overall numbers slip after 1998, but can they really blame us, the viewers? That’s the year Shakespeare in Love beat Saving Private Ryan for Best Picture. I still can’t believe that happened. World War II vs a silly little period romantic comedy? I was particularly surprised it won since it’s star (the wonderful Gweneth Paltrow) didn’t earn a best actress nomination, but then, there was also the year during which LOTR: Return of the King beat Mystic River, and that was a much bigger disgrace, so… you know, you reap what you sow, as the saying goes.
The Academy is also worried about their ratings with the younger audience, so of course, they ran out and hired Billy Crystal to host this year. Makes sense. I think this was his ninth time hosting… so yeah, I’ve seen his act before and didn’t really need to see it again.
Speaking of things we didn’t see, what the hell happened to Best Song? I know the lazy bastards only got around to nominating 2 songs out of an eligible 30 or so, but there was no time to perform them, so we got a Cirque Du Soleil performance instead? What the shit is that? How acrobats flying around the theater is more relevant than hearing a live performance of “Am I a Man or a Muppet?” I will never understand.
The entire situation has become some strange illogical puzzle. You’ve got a deeply flawed awards show that runs too long, gives awards out seemingly at random (or laziness – as in, “I didn’t see all of the movies, but fuck it – just give it to Meryl Streep, she’s brilliant.”) and doesn’t always show things that have anything to do with movies while the movie industry itself continues to shat out (by and large) an inferior product. There are solutions to their problems, but I guess it’s hard to get around to implementing them when your organization’s median age is 62 and everyone wants to get to the early bird special at Sizzler.