LOS ANGELES — The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has a long-term plan to fix its lack of diversity: It’s inviting a diverse group of much younger people to join the notoriously homogenous organization.
The academy on Wednesday announced its 2016 class, which is both its largest and most diverse ever — fulfilling a promise by academy leadership to address the issue that had #OscarsSoWhite trending during the last two Academy Awards telecasts.
The new choices also bring the organization’s membership more in line with the millennial generation that makes up much of the ticket-buying audience, with many under-40 names including 24-year-old John Boyega of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" and 26-year-old actress Brie Larson.
The 683-member class, out of a membership exceeding 6,000, is 46 percent female and 41 percent people of color, and ranges in age from 24 to 91. There are 28 Oscar winners and 98 nominees represented in the class.
And while the 2016 class only slightly moves the needle in its overall composition, raising the female share of membership from 25 percent to 27 percent, and the proportion of members of color from 8 percent to 11 percent, the academy’s newest members definitely lower the average age — especially the actors.
The academy has been criticized for being overwhelmingly old, male and white, not just male and white. The current crop bring a lot of fresh blood. In 2012, the Los Angeles Times found that Oscar voters had an average age of 62.
Maybe an answer to #OscarsSoWhite was to make #OscarsSoMillennial.
In addition to Boyega (the academy’s youngest inductee), the under-40 group includes the Best Supporting Actress for "The Danish Girl," 27-year-old Alicia Vikander; “Birth of a Nation” writer-director-star Nate Parker, 36; “Creed’s” Michael B. Jordan, 29; “Slumdog Millonaire’s” Freida Pinto, 31; Michelle Rodriguez of “Fast and Furious,” 37, and Emma Watson of “Harry Potter” fame, 26.
New member O’Shea Jackson, better known as Ice Cube, is an august 47, but comes from a background and sensibility that’s underrepresented in a body whose tastes in film are very different from the ticket-buying public, often veering into niche or obscure period films.
No one is suggesting putting the Oscars to a referendum, but the academy clearly responded to a call to make itself less elitist with this biggest-ever infusion of fresh blood. And as time passes (and assuming it continues to be more inclusive with its admissions) the long arc of Oscar nominations should bend toward something that looks a little more like America.