Affirmative Acting #OscarsSoWhite

By Cyberquill 02/26/20168 Comments

Racial minorities—blacks in particular—and women form the two major historically discriminated-against classes of people in the United States. (Hard to say which is worse, sexism or racism, but ideally you wouldn’t want to be accused of either.)

The bad news is that this year’s Academy Awards feature exactly zero non-white nominees in the acting categories.

The good news is that, as always, exactly 50% of acting nominees are female; and, as always, half of all acting Oscars will go to women.

Obviously, by way of segregating actors by sex, a gender-based quota system was effectively built into the very fabric of the Academy Awards; one that fairly accurately reflects the proportion of the sexes among the general population; whereas no such mandatory quota has been introduced for actors of color, thus leaving it to the discretion of the Academy to decide year-by-year how many non-whites to nominate (if any at all), a discretion preemptively taken out of the its hands when it comes to female actors, since half of the nominations and awards must go to women no matter what—even if, hypothetically speaking, in a given year no member of the Academy were to judge even one female performance to be Oscar-worthy, or as Oscar-worthy as some other performance by a male actor, half of the acting nominations and awards would still go to women, for a quota is a quota.

Absent this built-in segregation by sex, it is anybody’s guess whether the Academy Awards would be plagued by, and lambasted for, as conspicuous a perennial preponderance of male acting nominees—might there even be years without a single female one?—as is the case with respect to whites.

It is furthermore anybody’s guess why the Academy Awards rulebook names female actors—and not, say, female producers, directors, costume-designers, or composers; nor racial minorities, homosexuals, bisexuals, or transgenders in any capacity—as its sole protected class by affording them their own category and guaranteeing them a fixed and fair number of nominations and prizes.

While this system, on the one hand, seems eminently commendable, as it ensures gender non-discrimination in the field of acting at least, doesn’t it, on the flip side, send the somewhat condescending message that female actors couldn’t compete when pitted directly against male actors, just as most female world-class athletes would likely lose when matched against male world-class athletes on account of an inherent disparity in brawn?

Clearly, no such inherent gender disparity exists in acting, or in any other art form for that matter. Unlike in boxing, where the force per square inch of knuckle in a male sucker punch measurably exceeds that in the average female sucker punch, male thespians have absolutely nothing on female thespians, therefore rendering unnecessary segregation by gender on grounds of performance.

The only plausible reason for having instituted and maintaining this segregation is to preclude right out of the gate a recurring hullabaloo along the lines of #OscarsSoWhite on the gender front.

Or can you think of another?


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  • Richard

    A quota system is no more arbitrary than everything else about these awards, so I’m all for it. The avoidance of a hullaballoo is as good a reason as any other, to give minorities a chance and your piece is doubtless the start of one.

    • Cyberquill

      The question is whether the Academy Awards ought to establish equality among traditionally discriminated-against groups of people by adding a quota system for minorities or getting rid of the existing quota system for women. Seems unfair to ensure that women, but not blacks or homosexuals, receive a percentage of awards and nominations in proportion to their percentage of the general population.

  • Richard

    What if we eavesdropped on the secret deliberations?

    Judge 1: “Well, I thought [it/he/she/they was/were] incredible”
    Judge 2: “Absolutely. [it/he/she/they] did it for me.
    Judge 3: “Amazing, absolutely incredible. [it/he/she/they gets/get] my vote any day. But what about [it/him/her/ them]? [It/He/She/They] just didn’t do it for me”
    Judge 2: “I totally agree. [It/He/She/They”] didn’t do it for me at all.
    Judge 1: “Absolutely. [It/He/She/They] won’t get my vote… So ….. that’s 3 to 1 for [it/him/her/them]. Agreed?
    Judges 1,2 and 3 (in unison): “Agreed. Absolutely. It’s been an incredibly difficult decision.”

    If I were a member of an ethnic minority and nominated I’d run a mile.

    • Cyberquill

      I think what you’re recounting there are secret deliberations by the British Supreme Court, having just sat through oral arguments from two opposing barristers, or teams of barristers, upon the matter of whether Britain’s unwritten Constitution has evolved, at long last, to decree that the country adopt driving on the right. (Based on the brevity of the deliberations, it seems to me that the side arguing in favor has failed to convince the judges.)

      • Richard

        Ever the optimist, CQ!
        How about a plebiscite?

        • Cyberquill

          Not if driving on the left is a constitutional right. Let’s look it up. Trouble is, I’ve only got my little U.S. pocket Constitution on my desk here. For some reason, I don’t have the British one. Is it posted online somewhere?

          • Richard

            We British have no need to refer. Such is evolutionary development that the answers are all part of our nature, our constitution. We may drive either on the left or the right if we so choose, we merely turn into the Savoy from the Strand.

        • Cyberquill

          Ah, right — the storied entrance to the Savoy, that sole haven for homesick continental drivers.

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