Tokenism vs. Representation: The Academy and Accountability

Soon the Academy Awards, AKA the Oscars, will make inclusion mandatory for the Best Picture category..

The film industry has never particularly been known for its diversity and inclusion, with roots in racist vaudeville tropes, objectification of female characters and White male dominance behind the camera. But it’s 2020: Change is coming. Most industries and companies are taking concrete steps to centering the narratives of those who have been previously ignored, most recently being the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Tuesday, September 8th, 2020, the new set of representation and inclusion standards for the Oscars were revealed to the public. These “new representation and inclusion standards for Oscars® eligibility in the Best Picture category” are a part of the Academy Aperture 2025 Initiative. The Academy noted that “the standards are designed to encourage equitable representation on and off screen in order to better reflect the diversity of the movie-going audience.” This sounds great in theory! But there are some details we need to consider first. First, these standards will go into effect fully for the 96th Oscars in 2024; the 2022 and 2023 Best Picture applicants will be required to submit a confidential form on Academy Inclusion Standards. This leads me to my second clarification, answering what exactly these standards entail.

To read the entire statement click here, but the main gist is this: To be deemed eligible for the Best Picture award, a film must meet 2 out of 4 of the following standards. To qualify for Standard A, the film must meet one of three smaller criteria focused on on-screen representation, talent and narratives centering BIPOC, women, the LGBTQ+ community, and people with mental or physical disabilities. To qualify for Standard B, similar groups must be represented in at least 30 percent of those working behind the camera in creative and professional leadership on a film. Standard C, same deal as B, but concerning interns, smaller paid positions and crew. Standard D requires those in marketing, distribution and audience engagement to be held to the same 30 percent or more quota. And yet after all of these impressive amendments to the process of qualifying films for prestigious awards, here’s the punch line: every other category will remain held to their current eligibility standards.

That’s right, only the Best Picture category will be enforcing such progressive requirements. Representation on the biggest billed movies is important for visibility, but this brings up a bigger conversation about tokenizing minorities in the workplace. Where is the line drawn between genuine attempts at inclusion and mere numerical quotas to be met? Sound off and let us know if you think these standards will be effective in bringing change to the film industry.


By Leah Ollie, Senior, Whitney Young High School

@leahgraceollie on Instagram


Written by TrueStar Staff

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