Each year, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences adds more than 100 new voting members to its ranks, encompassing 17 different branches including actors, cinematographers, directors, writers, producers and executives. In recent years, the number of annual inductees has increased. Last year, the Academy welcomed 271 new members, and even more are joining this year.
The Academy regularly comes under fire in the media for skewing white, old, and male, causing a latent prejudice toward films that appeal to the sensibilities of those demographics. In 2012, a Los Angeles Times study found that 94% of Oscar voters are white and 77% are male. Only 2% of the entire Academy voting membership was black at that time. And last year’s nominee pool was among the least diverse in the organization’s history.
The Academy is at least taking steps to address its demographic deficiencies. The Academy’s 322 new inductees, announced in The Hollywood Reporter on Friday, include David Oyelowo, John Legend, Common, Kevin Hart, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Dev Patel, Sonny Skyhawk and several other performers of color. The list also includes heavyweights Emma Stone, Felicity Jones, Rosamund Pike, Daniel Radcliffe, Tom Hardy, J.K. Simmons, Jason Segel and Elizabeth Banks. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman appear together on the list, marking yet another collaboration for the Sherlock duo.
Notable directors include Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), Justin Lin (Fast Five and Furious 6), James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy), Joe Wright (Atonement), Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer), and Edgar Wright (The World’s End). The list also includes composer Jonny Greenwood (There Will Be Blood), music team Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (The Social Network), and frequent superhero movie screenwriters Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, and Simon Kinberg.
It would be foolish to look at the inclusion of any name on this list and say that it represents something larger about the future of the Academy or the film industry in general. These invitations are coveted, of course, and previous nominees and winners are given strongest consideration, but the Academy won’t solve its diversity by making a few attractive hires each year. The problem lies deeper within the Academy’s history and probably requires greater structural repairs for meaningful change to occur.
That said, the Academy at least acknowledged that it has room to diversify, and many of the people on this list are among the most appealing and interesting people working in Hollywood today. It remains to be seen how they will affect the outcomes of nominations in the years to come.
The Oscars will air live on ABC at 8:30 p.m. on February 28th, 2016.