Social Justice Quotas Shouldn’t Determine Oscar’s Best Picture Nominees

Social Justice Quotas Shouldn’t Determine Oscar’s Best Picture Nominees

The actors, actresses, crew, and staff of movies should be made up of men and women who get ahead by virtue of their talent, not group identity quotas.
Joshua Lawson
By

If there’s an award for unintentionally tanking viewership while sinking a once venerable institution into further irrelevancy, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is the frontrunner.

Recently, the AMPAS unveiled their latest tone-deaf attempt to curry favor with the farthest fringes of the radical left circles in the film industry and their allies in the corporate media world. Starting out as strong suggestions for the 94th Oscars in 2022 and coming into full effect in 2024, all Academy Award nominees will have to incorporate cast, staff, and plot quotas for race, sex, sexual behavior, and disabilities to be eligible to be nominated for Best Picture.

Details and instructions for the Academy’s new requirements total more than 650 words of cultural Marxist pablum and cover four categories of “standards” set by the AMPAS to “encourage equitable representation on and off-screen in order to better reflect the diversity of the movie-going audience.”

Although it’s easy to laugh at the unhinged spiral of out-of-touch celebrities and their self-congratulatory awards shows, there’s also something tragic about the transformation of the film industry over the last 30 years. It wasn’t that long ago that the whole family could gather around the television on a Sunday night in February and watch Oscars handed out to movies they had seen and loved. Many Americans still remember wonderful speeches given by relatable stars who, despite an aura of mystique and glamour, still felt like agreeable, good people you could be friends with in an alternate timeline.

Movies — like Shakespeare’s plays of the 17th century, and the Circus Maximus of millennia ago — offer a necessary respite from the often hard day-to-day mundanity of life. Particularly special films can spark worthwhile conversations and even make us better people. If there’s any chance of reclaiming any of that, it’s worth holding out hope and fighting for such a medium.

Unfortunately, the current leadership of the Academy doesn’t seem at all interested. Ratings for the Oscars hit an all-time low last year, and with the latest news, that trend is quite likely to continue.

While Hollywood needs no aid, assistance, or encouragement to produce films with anti-American, leftist, and subversive agendas, the new AMPAS Best Picture rules reward them for doing so. While political pressure from social justice warriors and leftist talking points have ostensibly guilted Academy members away from voting for anything pro-American, traditional, or, well, normal for quite a few years now, the new AMPAS rules will make it harder for anything that doesn’t obsequiously fawn over leftist mantras to even be nominated in the first place.

The desired traits are innumerable, so it’s just easier to summarize that the AMPAS wants to see more of everyone who isn’t Caucasian, heterosexual, or male. Across four categories of “standards,” films can earn the good graces of the Academy through the 21st-century cultural Marxist version of intersectional indulgences.

“Standard A” deals with “on-screen presentation, themes, and narratives,” and can be fulfilled by casting a non-Caucasian, non-heterosexual in the leading role, having 30 percent of the cast be non-Caucasian, non-heterosexual, or have the main storyline focus on any of the Academy’s preferred identity groups.

“Standard B” involves having “appropriate” numbers of non-Caucasian, non-heterosexuals on the production team.

The abject horror of a film with an all-Caucasian, all-heterosexual, all-male cast can still be nominated for Best Picture, however, if the production fulfills “Standard C” and offers “training and/or work opportunities” to “underrepresented groups” and fulfills “Standard D” by having multiple senior staffers from the aforementioned groups in distribution, marketing, and publicity.

So, there’s still a chance we’ll see historical period pieces based in Europe or North America that don’t have to do with slavery, and war films that predate the 21st century as long as their respective studios can hit the intersectionality threshold sweet-spot between their crews and social media and publicity teams.

Interestingly enough, women are considered to be an “underrepresented group” in the avenues of film marketing, publicity, and distribution, which, if satisfactorily fulfilled, can help a film check off its “Standard D” requirement.

For a moment, grant the premise that it is fair and virtuous for individuals who may be less qualified to receive jobs in place of those who are more qualified by the sole dint of an immutable characteristic that has nothing to do with their job performance. Does the claim that women are underrepresented in “Standard D”’s job category square with the facts?

According to data collected by Dr. Martha Lauzen at the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, in 2019, women made up 48 percent of the producers of the top 250 highest-grossing films, including 21 percent at the executive level. Even if one prefers quota-based hiring — and one shouldn’t — the data indicates that, if anything, women are represented at almost exactly the “correct” level relative to the U.S. population in that subfield of filmmaking.

Of course, all of this is absurd. The new AMPAS rules won’t have as much potential to wreak as much havoc as politicians who foolishly exalt sex or race quotas for cabinet positions regardless of excellence, qualifications, or skill, but they’ll have pernicious effects on the industry and broader culture nonetheless. Where affirmative action exists, one soon discovers a toxic landscape of paranoia and resentment.

If authenticity requires the representation of certain races and sexes, filmmakers haven’t shied from making such films; often, they’ve done so to great acclaim. Yet just as “The Color Purple,” “Glory,” and “The Help” wouldn’t work if every role were cast with Caucasian males, so too would films such as “Master and Commander” or “1917” be unbelievably ludicrous if they were exclusively cast with black females.

Rewarding excellence in film should be based on merit and merit alone. Actors, directors, producers, writers, and all other employees who work in the film industry shouldn’t have nagging thoughts over whether they received a job as part of a quota scheme in order to help get a film nominated for Best Picture. They should be able to assume they got their job because of their unique gifts and abilities — nothing else.

Let genuine storytelling and deference to the original intent of a work’s creator drive casting, not identity politics steeped in leftist ideology.

Let the actors, crew, and staff of movies be made up of men and women who get ahead through having deeper resumes and deeper talent, not just deeper skin tones.

Let the Academy return to celebrating movies made with no political agendas, cancerous subtexts, or axes to grind.

Let the film industry remember its mission: the simple, timeless quest to evoke from its audience contagious laughter, racing hearts, tears of sorrow, or tears of inspiration.

Let the movie industry return to doing what we need it to do — to immerse us in an escapist world where the only limit is the combination of our imagination and the talented cinematic masters who give it the wings to soar even higher.

Joshua Lawson is managing editor of The Federalist. He is a graduate of Queen's University as well as Hillsdale College where he received a master's degree in American politics and political philosophy. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaMLawson.

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