The 2016 Academy Awards broadcast is shaping up to be the most controversial presentation of the ceremony in years. Ever since the #OscarsSoWhite social media protest and threats of boycotts by high-profile stars surfaced in the wake of an ongoing lack of diversity among nominees, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has been scrambling to find a solution to the problem — including an emergency meeting resulting in sweeping changes to membership rules at the end of last week.
As the ongoing controversy largely involves a perceived bias against non-white potential nominees, many had wondered whether scheduled host Chris Rock would step down to join the boycott. While Rock has elected to stay, it has now been revealed the comedian will go back to the drawing board to make sure his jokes tackle the issue head-on.
Speaking to ET (via Variety), the 88th Academy Awards producer Reginald Hudlin confirmed that Rock had opted not to drop out of the show, before clarifying the comedian decided to instead throw out his previously written jokes and that he and his writers had “locked themselves in a room” to brainstorm new material. Said Hudlin:
“As things got a little provocative and exciting, he said, ‘I’m throwing out the show I wrote and writing a new show.'”
Hudlin went on to specify viewers could indeed expect jokes that addressed #OscarsSoWhite, the social-media protest movement that helped pushed the controversy into the mainstream, along with the boycott calls from stars like Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith. Rock is no stranger to such hot topics, having fronted his own button-pushing HBO talk show in the 90s and hosting the Oscars once before. Even prior to current chaos erupting, the comic had cut promos for the event wherein he refers to the storied award ceremony as “The white BET Awards.” Rock was famously rough on the attending celebrities during his previous turn as Oscar host, at one point mocking the low box-office averages of actor Jude Law so mercilessly that Sean Penn felt compelled to defend him onstage. Hudlin, too, is familiar with such pressures, having directed politically charged comedies like The Great White Hype and serving as a producer on Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained.
Although the show will proceed with the much-criticized slate of nominees still in place, the outpouring of media and audience criticism has already led to radical overhauls aimed at changing the face of future presentations. Most notably, the Academy has voted to change its membership rules in order to limit the influence of long-entrenched members who may not be in touch with the realities of an evolving film industry, and will conduct an ambitious new effort to bring new voters from diverse backgrounds into the fold. The hope is these changes will result in future nominees reflecting a greater range of talent and genres more reflective of the industry and its audience in the 21st Century.
While complaints about a lack of diversity have dogged the Oscars for decades, the issue came to a head this year as audiences were shocked by the high-profile snubs of popular, critically-praised hits like Creed and Straight Outta Compton, along with celebrated performances by actors like Michael B. Jordan and Idris Elba. While coverage of the controversy and the resulting changes to Oscar policy has focused on outrage over perceived racial bias, some have suggested these changes could also go a long way to addressing other criticisms of the Academy, such as bias against non-dramatic performances and the sci-fi, fantasy, and horror genres. While some movie fans have called foul on the changes, accusing the Academy of pushing “quotas,” others remain confident this is a first step toward the Oscars becoming more representative of modern Hollywood and its audience.
We’ll find out exactly what Chris Rock has to say on the matter when The Academy Awards airs live on ABC on Sunday, February 28.
Source: ET, Variety