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Racial Diversity (Or Lack Of) In The 2016 Oscars: Should This Be A Concern?

Updated on January 31, 2016

The Oscars are considered to be the epitome of the industry, the ultimate goal of an actor. They strive to achieve a nomination, to build a reputation, to become an icon or a long lasting influence on those who come after. But are these nominations handed out in a fair and just manner, or is there a hesitance, an unwillingness to acknowledge those who are not white? Some individuals feel this is true; others not. Even within those who are Black there is a confrontation as to who is right and who is wrong. I have to ask: is it real or is it a matter of perception?

Let's take a look at the more prominent categories and those nominated this year. And then take a look those who believe they should have been included at someone else's expense.


Nominations for Best Picture

"And the nominees are... The Big Short; Mad Max: Fury Road; Room; Spotlight; The Revenant; The Martian; Brooklyn; and Bridge of Spies."

Each of the films nominated is headed by an actor who is white. For the most part, they are well known, well respected actors who have paid their dues and worked for years to get to this point in their lives. Tom Hanks in Bridge of Spies; Brad Pitt, Steve Carell, Christian Bale and Ryan Gosling in The BIg Short; Matt Damon in The Martian; Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams in Spotlight and Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road among others are the people who put their all into their films, hoping to be noticed and nominated.

There are other films out there that were not nominated for one reason or another, many other films. In fact, there were in excess of 300 films released this calendar year so only a very small percentage of those released even get nominated. But there are a few who are upset at the lack of color shown in the films which have been nominated and feel they are being ignored, perhaps even persecuted. Have they? I would like to take a look at some films and compare them to one another in a few categories.

Let's take a look at the Oscar nominated films and their popularity by looking at IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes as well as budget versus box office. This should determine whether a film is making money, is popular with the viewing public and basically if it is a film that is worthy of our time. Please review these films and a pair which are being touted as being passed over in favor of other, "white" films in the table below.

IMDb Rating
Rotten Tomatoes
Box Office
The Revenant
The Martian
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
Straight Outta Compton

Other Films Not Nominated For Best Picture

IMDb Rating
Rotten Tomatoes
Box Office
The Hateful Eight
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Mockingjay Part 2
War Room
The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
The Gift
Jurassic World

War Room: My Thoughts

In this film, which speaks about fighting a war against Satan in our lives, an elderly woman named Miss Clara is played by an actress named Karen Abercrombie. I have never seen her in a film before and was struck by the familiarity I seemed to have for her. My wife and I finally realized who she reminded us of: Cicley Tyson! In the old made for T.V. movie The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Ms. Tyson plays the part of Jane Pittman, a woman who was born a slave and is now nearly 100 years old. It was a wonderful film and Ms. Abercrombie's character reminds me greatly of Miss Jane Pittman in her strength, her faith and her ability to tell a tale. In my estimation, I firmly believe that Karen Abercrombie deserved a nomination for Best Supporting Actress this year.

So if we look at those films in this light, we see that of all the films nominated, The Revenant is the nominated film with the worst Rotten Tomatoes rating at 81% and falls slightly below Straight Outta Compton's 89%. It does fair better than Straight Outta Compton in the IMDb rating, 8.3 to 8.1. Revenant was much more expensive to make and brought in less than Straight. So what made Revenant get the nomination over Straight?

Subject matter. The Revenant is a film based upon real life trapper Hugh Glass who was mauled by a bear and left for dead by his comrades. Refusing to die, he crawled and staggered some 200 miles to survive. Leonardo DiCaprio has the lead role and reportedly is wonderful. This film grabs you and draws you into the struggle to live. Powerful stuff.

Straight Outta Compton is a film that is directed to a specific group of individuals. It details the rise and fall of a hip hop group from California. It is basically modern in its telling and the members of the group are for the most part still relevant to its target audience. However, in targeting a specific audience it will limit its appeal to the masses and while it has made more money than Revenant, in the long run its popularity will probably not reach the level of this film. Why?

In my opinion, because of the racial tensions currently looming large on our landscape. The Black against White struggle is fierce, with each and every newscast detailing some perceived oppression, shooting, riot, murder or other violent and negative situation in the United States today. For the most part, the majority of people in America today do not want to be reminded of such in an entertainment activity. They go to escape their lives for a short time, not have it thrust in their face and have to pay for the right to have this done. Those who will enjoy Straight will be those who follow Hip Hop music and the associated lifestyle, not the casual viewer.

And to me, that is why it was not given a nomination. I could be wrong and it might be something as simple as the old guard in the Academy not wanting to honor a film by Blacks about Blacks but I just don't think so. However, anything is possible.

As for Concussion starring Will Smith, it is another topical film detailing a doctor who discovers a connection between the violent nature of football and head injuries such as concussions. I have not seen the film and thus can only relate what I have read about it, but it has been written that this was not a good film for Will Smith and his performance is not his best. Adding the poorer reviews and low amount of box office revenue, and one has to agree that the general public did not like the film and thus probably should not receive a nomination.

If we look at the second table and compare those films to Concussion, we will see that virtually every one of them outperformed Concussion on all fronts with one exception: War Room. This film features a primarily Black cast in a Christian setting and is very good. Critics won't like it because it is a Christian film but the story is strong, the acting is good and it did well in the theaters, doubling the total box office take of Concussion. As a matter of fact, it outperformed The Big Short, Brooklyn, Room and Spotlight, all of whom are nominated for Best Picture. And if you tally up its cost versus the return, it outperformed every other film released this year by having a twenty-five times return on investment! The next best is Jurassic Work at an eleven times ROI. So no matter how you cut it, this film was a winner. But because of its subject matter it will not be popular with the masses, and that's a shame.

Films which were nominated such as Room and Brooklyn are low budget, low box office films but were well received, with Brooklyn having a near perfect Rotten Tomatoes score of 99%. Thus, it received a nomination when Concussion did not.

Other Categories

In each of the other primary categories such as Best Actor and Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actor and Actress the field is totally White. Could there have been a person of color there? Possibly. Should the Academy overlook a worthy contender because of their color just to include a person of color? Never! Should a person of color be overlooked solely because of their color? Never! Should a person of color be included solely because of their color? Never! If you give a worthy performance and you are one of the top five in the eyes of those who give out the nominations, you should receive one; but to say one is deserved or should be given in order to NOT have a white field is ridiculous. That in and of itself is racist, as you would be supplanting a worthy person based upon the color of their skin and I would hope that in this day and age, in the liberal bastion that is Hollywood whether a person is white or not should not play a part in such a nomination. Is it still possible? Yes, but I fervently hope that is not the case.

In the category of Writing, Straight Outta Compton does get a nomination for Best Original Screenplay. So obviously the film is getting some due, perhaps not what those associated with it wanted but really, you got something a lot of others did not receive.

Remember, there were about 320 films released this year, and you got one of only five nominations.

So, is there a conspiracy to exclude Blacks from receiving an Oscar bid? I don't believe so; nor do I believe any of the films mentioned nor actors upset deserved a bid. For Best Picture I would have left out Room and maybe Brooklyn, but that's my taste. I would have added Creed, maybe The Gift or Jurassic World in their stead. Mad Max is another one that is a bit outside what I perceive to be Academy Award material, but hey, who am I?

Heck, I don't even think the new Star Wars film deserves an Oscar nomination!

So which film will win the Oscar for Best Film? The Revenant is getting a lot of press but it's not the Academy's way to reward a big film. More often that not, they go with a little film no one hears of or sees, or features a topic most of us aren't interested in (remember The Hurt Locker and The Artist?) so it will more than likely not be The Revenant, The Martian, Mad Max, or Bridge of Spies. That leaves Room, Brooklyn, Spotlight and The Big Short. Room may be too specialized; Spotlight too topical; The Big Short too. So that leaves Brooklyn. So that's my pick.

What are your thoughts?

UPDATE January 31. 2016: I just finished watching The Martian. It was OUTSTANDING!!!!! Very smart, very exciting, one of the best films I may have ever seen. Matt Damon was great and it was easy to get lost in the plot. Well done, Ridley Scott!

And by the way, there were two persons of color who played very prominent roles in this film, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Donald Glover, to say nothing of the various other ethnicities including Asian and Hispanic. Overall it was a well balanced cast, and made for an excellent film,


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    • Mr Archer profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr Archer 

      3 years ago from Missouri

      Thank you Mary of Tillson. Well, tonight is the night and we will see what occurs: will there be a hubbub? Will it fade into the background? Will something take place to change the world, to force our society into another direction? Will everyone capitulate and give in, or will they say "Give a great performance and you will be rewarded"? I hope it is the latter: time will tell.

      Take care, Mary. And have a wonderful day.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      3 years ago from New York

      Thanks for the honest updates. I have been doing a series on the Oscars for quite a while now, and every year, I repeat, EVERY year films are left out that the public is enraged about. There is no way to satisfy all of the people. The Academy is made up of a certain number of members and their choices will never make everyone happy.

      Racist? I agree with you, no! It is just the way it happens every year. I've seen movies win over movies that should have, but as you said, who am I to judge. There were no complaints when movies starring people of color were nominated so why should there be complaints about that now? It is about the movie, the story, the reception, NOT the color.

      Well done hub.

    • Mr Archer profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr Archer 

      3 years ago from Missouri

      Cheyenne, I wish this would go away as well. It's getting old listening to people say they are discriminated against. What would they think if they lived fifty or more years ago and weren't able to drink out a water fountain, ride the bus where they wanted, or order a cola at the soda shop? Walk a mile in their shoes and THEN cry discrimination ,won't you. Awards shows, pfft. Who cares? Take care my friend.

      Brian, I don't know of any way you can accomplish that goal but good luck. Have a good day, Sir.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I am a white man who wants to change his appearance to black permanently!

      Reasons I want to be black.

      black skin

      Makes you look stronger, makes you look younger, reduces your chances of getting fired, reduces your chances of getting robbed walking to your car at night, gives you more flexibility on what you can and can not say, is a hit with the ladies, and can be used as a tool to get more productivity out of black employees.

      So does anyone know if there is a safe and affordable way for me to change my appearance to black?

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      3 years ago from Central Florida

      To be honest, I never watch the Oscars. I don't go to the theater much because it's too expensive. Rather, I wait until they come on TV. However, just like anything in life, awards should be given on merit, not color or gender. I don't know why the race card is being played now. Are the stars bored? Pissed that they weren't nominated? Perhaps they should take a look at their talent or the roles they choose rather than place the blame elsewhere.

      I love anything Cicely Tyson is in. Same with Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman. And Tyler Perry movies are always entertaining and give the viewer a moral to the story, whether a comedy or drama. Then again, I'll watch a movie just because Kevin Costner is in it. Or Sly Stallone, Nicholas Cage, Sam Elliott. There are so many. But it's all based on talent and how they resonate with me. Not their race.

      I really wish this racial %&#! would just go away. It just brings us back to the era before we were all given equal rights. I say cut the crap and take a good look at what you offer as a person, actor, artist, musician and quit blaming your lack of trophies on discrimination.

      I agree with you, Mike. Awards don't come in colors or because of color. They are earned, just like everything else in life.

    • Mr Archer profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr Archer 

      3 years ago from Missouri

      Here is a list of nominations for Black Actors for best actor 1986 to present: Dexter Gordon 1986; Morgan Freeman 1989, 1994, 2009. Denzel Washington 1992, 1999, 2001, 2012. Will Smith 2001, 2006. Lawrence Fishburne 1993. 2004 Jamie Foxx, Don Cheadle. 2005 Terrence Howard. 2006 Forrest Whitaker. 2013 Chiwetel Ejoifor.

      Best Actresses Nominations: 1985 Whoopi Goldbrg. 1993 Angela Bassett. 2001 Halle Berry. 2009 Gadbourey Sidibe. 2011 Viola Davis. 2012 Quvenzhane Willis.

      Supporting Actor Nominations: 1981 Howard Rollins; 1982 Louis Gossett Jr.; 1984 Adolph Ceasar; 1987 & 2004 Morgan Freeman; 1987 & 1989 Denzel Washington; 1992 Jaye Davidson; 1994 Samuel L. Jackson; 1996 Cuba Gooding Jr.; 1999 Michael Clarke Duncan; 2003 & 2006 Djimon Hounsou; 2004 Jamie Foxx; 2006 Eddie Murphy; 2013 Barkhad Abdi.

      Supporting Actress Nominations: 1983 Alfre Woodard; 1985 Margaret Avery; 1985 Oprah Winfrey; 1990 Whoopi Goldberg; 1996 Marianne Jean-Baptiste; 2002 Queen Latifah; 2004 Sophi Okonedo; 2006 Jennifer Hudson; 2007 Ruby Dee; 2008 Viola Davis & Taraji P. Henson; 2009 Mo'Nique; 2011 Octavia Spencer; 2013 Lupita Nyong'o.

      Black Oscar Winners: Denzel Washington 1989 & 2001; Jamie Foxx 2004; Forest Whitaker 2006; Halle Berry 2001; Louis Gossett Jr. 1982; Cuba Gooding Jr.1996; Morgan Freeman 2004; Whoopi Goldberg 1990; Jennifer Hudson 2006; Mo'Nique 2009; Octavia Spencer 2011; Lupita Nyong'o 2013.

      Actors who have never even been nominated for Academy Award: John Goodman, Richard Gere, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jim Carrey, Meg Ryan, Bruce Willis, Jeff Daniels, Mia Farrow, Donald Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, Isabella Rossellini, Carrie Fisher, Maureen O'Hara, Kim Novak, Brigitte Bardot.

      I think we all are in agreement that Richard Gere, Bruce Willis, Meg Ryan, Maureen O'Hara, Isabella Rossellini and especially Donald Sutherland are far superior actors to Mo'Nique, Whoopi Goldberg and Queen Latifah yet they NEVER received a single nomination, let alone win an Oscar. Facts are facts and sometimes you just get overlooked.

      Thanks Bill, word, Jodah and Michaela!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      I may be wrong but didn't Jamie Fox win or at least get nominated for "Ray" about Ray Charles, Halle Berry for Monster, and Sidney Poitier for The Man Who Came to Dinner etc?

    • Michaela Osiecki profile image


      3 years ago from USA

      It IS true that voters have the right to nominate whatever they like, but are these voters deliberately excluding black actors or PoC in film? Are they biased into thinking that black actors are somehow inferior, no matter the impact they've made on the film industry?

      There are so many black actors or PoC in film that have done phenomenal work in film that will never be recognized for it by mainstream award shows. I don't think a person of color have EVER been nominated for or won an award at the Oscars.

      Morgan Freeman for example has been in hundreds of impact-ful films and yet....

    • word55 profile image

      Al Wordlaw 

      3 years ago from Chicago

      Good write up. Everybody has their reason for their opinion. To each his/her own. The voters have the right to choose who they want to nominate and win. That is apparently the way it was set up. Have a blessed day!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      A good comprehensive look at this years Academy Award nominations. I don't feel the choices are racist at all, it's just they way the chips fell this year. No movie or person should be excluded due to race but that works both ways. There have been plenty of black actors nominated and even won in the past. This maybe just a carry over from the current political/social climate in the USA.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Is there a conspiracy? I don't think that for a second. Is there racial bias in America? Most definitely.

      As always, I enjoyed reading your thoughts. Have a great weekend, my friend.

    • Mr Archer profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr Archer 

      3 years ago from Missouri

      The nominations are given based upon their peers: actors vote for actors, directors for directors and so on and so forth; so it does not necessarily mean the "old guard" is voting for whites only; it is the same people they work with day in and day out. How can that be racist? Thanks, RJ, for the read, stop and comment. Have a great day.

    • RJ Schwartz profile image

      Ralph Schwartz 

      3 years ago from Idaho Falls, Idaho

      The Oscars seem to give me heartburn every year since most of the movies chosen show poorly at the box office, however there are some that do quite well. But that's just my pet peeve. I do not think that race should enter the fray in any way shape or form. Nominations come from thousands of voters, so I can't see how people view the choice or exclusion as racist to begin with.

      People of color demand equality, but when they are treated equal, they cry racism. Seems like a no win situation.


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