Hollywood and the Academy: You're on notice. Amid controversy over the lack of diversity among this year’s Oscar contenders, Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Calif., sent a letter Tuesday to Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Cheryl Boone Isaacs that minced no words. "I write to express my shock at the lack of diversity in this year’s Oscars nominees," wrote Cardenas in a letter Deadline published in its entirety.
Cardenas also wrote that he wanted to work with Isaacs, who is African-American, "to improve diversity in the entertainment industry and in Academy membership," to learn "the actions you are taking to promote diversity" and "to begin a dialogue on how to build a more diverse entertainment industry to better represent the diversity of our nation and the world." The letter was copied to the Academy’s board of governors and the chiefs at the six major studios.
The perennial issue returned with a vengeance last month when the nominations for the 87th annual Academy Awards were announced. Not only were no people of color nominated in any of the acting categories, which prompted a lot of twittering on Twitter, but there was also a hullabaloo around Ava DuVernay's best director snub for "Selma." The film, about Martin Luther King Jr. and the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to secure equal voting rights, was nominated for best picture.
Media critics, including the late David Carr of the New York Times, noted the glaring absence. In Carr's piece, "Why the Oscars Omission of 'Selma' Matters," he wrote, "The news continues to be full of all manner of pathology and victimization involving black Americans, and when a moment comes to celebrate both a historical giant and a pure creative achievement, it merits significant and broad recognition."
“Unmasking the Academy,” a 2012 Los Angeles Times investigation of the composition of the Oscar voters, found that they are 94 percent white and 77 percent male. Only 14 percent are under the age of 50.
The 87th annual Academy Awards will take place Sunday, Feb. 22, in Los Angeles.