Magazine article Variety

Academy Faces Identity Crisis Relevance Once in Doubt, Members Now Biz's New Social Justice Warriors

Magazine article Variety

Academy Faces Identity Crisis Relevance Once in Doubt, Members Now Biz's New Social Justice Warriors

Article excerpt

Be careful what you wish for.

For a long time, some members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences worried that Oscars were becoming irrelevant, due to the glut of awards shows and declining ratings.

However, in the past few years, the Academy has often been at the center of worldwide debates about industry inclusion (e.g., #Oscars- SoWhite) and harassment/bullying (#MeToo, #TimesUp). These movements will remain central to all Oscar conversations leading up to the March 4 ceremony.

Instead of being ignored, Oscar became a hot-button symbol. So be careful what you wish for.

Until the Oscarcast (and beyond), debates about nominees will focus on the Hollywood system - and on the Academy. For most of its 90-year history, the public wanted to know who won, but didn't particularly care about who voted. That changed with the internet. Every Academy move has been under scrutiny.

As Academy president John Bailey, and the executives, board and members struggle with their newfound fame, give them a moment of sympathy. They're dealing with questions that their predecessors didn't have to grapple with.

Transparency

The Academy is basically an honor society. For most of its 90 years, AMPAS was also a private club. According to Variety archives, there were 3,529 voters in 1979 and 86% of them lived in California. It was a group for Hollywood insiders. Now, as membership expands, journalists want to know every detail about membership and about the board. It's self-perpetuating: The more people talk about the inner workings of the Academy, the more questions are asked.

For example, the AMPAS board voted to create three governors-at-large, to expand membership significantly, to recruit voters who hadn't requested membership, and so on. Some members protested they weren't consulted. Privately, a few individuals shrug that government legislators make decisions every day without consulting constituents, so the moves are not unusual. …

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