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How diverse is this year’s Oscars?

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Happy April! As spring sets in in Hollywood, this year’s awards season gears up for a delayed Oscars later this month. If the decline in viewership for this year’s Golden Globes is any indication, the Oscars could be put to a tough test, especially after last year’s dismal audience. The Globes have also been plagued by technical issues, while the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which runs the Globes, faced a backlash after membership diversity issues and improper payouts came to light.

But unlike the Globes, this year’s Oscars field is hailed as one of the most diverse. Five years after the #OscarsSoWhite movement criticized the Academy for its lack of representation, could the series take a step forward?

“We are heartened to see several of the premieres,” Time’s Up frontman Tina Tchen said this week. The organization, which was founded to fight fairness in the workplace after the sexual harassment case against Harvey Weinstein, openly declared the lack of diversity at this year’s Golden Globes. Ms Tchen said the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has worked hard to bring about change over the past five years, and it shows. “To give the Academy credit, they understood that it was so much more than just a performance – it was about doing a thorough job to be truly inclusive,” she said.

The differences between the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and the Academy in terms of approaches to diversity are striking, said Mark Young, professor at the Marshall School of Business at USC. While the Academy has increased the number of its voting members to more than 9,000 in 2021, from nearly 6,000 in 2015, Mr. Young said, the HFPA has less than a hundred members – many of whom are not reporters, as originally planned, and none of who are black.

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“The HFPA should have seen this coming,” Tchen said. “This is not news to anyone who has paid attention over the past few years. Especially over the past year, I think all American institutions have paid a lot of attention to racial and gender justice, equity and inclusion.

Coming out of the Globes, the Oscars field stands out with several milestones and premieres, expanding the range of storytelling that Hollywood celebrates. Even with new rules and guidelines in place that aren’t even in effect yet, the Academy has highlighted under-represented communities and stories this year.

[See the full list of Oscars nominations here.]

And in a year marked not only by the pandemic wiping out theatrical releases, but also by a frightening rise in violence against Asian Americans, the message of this year’s show is being considered. by many as hopeful.

Hollywood and the media have long favored stereotypical depictions of Asians, Mr. Young said, which has given Americans the perception that Asians fit into boxes – including the myth of the model minority leading to depictions of Asians as doctors or nerds or even in comedy. “It’s messed up in people’s heads in such a way that Asian Americans are marginalized and not seen as traditional or positive,” Young said.

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But with the nomination of films like “Minari” or the recognition of filmmaker Lee Isaac Chung and actors Steven Yeun and Riz Ahmed, the journey to shatter these stereotypes, especially those of Asian men, is progressing.

“I’m encouraged,” Ms. Tchen said of this year’s Oscar nominees. “We should celebrate progress when this happens,” she said, and “also use it as a time to redouble our efforts”.

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Here are some of the many firsts among this year’s nominees:

The main and secondary actor categories represent 20 nominations, or nearly half. And of the nine, six nominees are black actors, while there was only one last year.

For the first time in 50 years, there are two black nominees in this category. Andra Day is recognized for her role as Billie Holiday in Hulu’s biopic “United States vs. Billie Holiday”, while Viola Davis got the nod for her role in “My Rainey’s Black Bottom”.

This is Ms Davis’ fourth Oscar nomination, making her the most nominated black actress of all time.

[Most of this year’s top Oscar contenders can be watched at home. Here’s where to find them.]

It’s been almost 20 years since a man of Asian descent landed the Oscar nomination for Best Actor. This year there are two – which never happened. Steven Yeun is nominated for “Minari”, while Riz Ahmed, a Briton of Pakistani origin, was awarded for “Sound of Metal”.

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Both Mr. Yeun and Mr. Ahmed are nominated for the first time, and their films are also nominated for the best picture category.

Chloe Zhao, who directed “Nomadland,” and Emerald Fennell, who directed “Young Promising Woman,” won nominations in a category that rarely included women: before this year, only five female directors had been recognized.

Ms. Zhao is the first woman of color to be nominated in this category.

(This article is part of the California today newsletter. Register now to have it delivered to your inbox.)

California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. PT on weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: [email protected]. Have you been forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here and read each edition online here.

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Priya Arora was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley and graduated from UC Irvine. They are currently social media editors on the Audience team and also write about South Asian pop culture for The Times.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from UC Berkeley.

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