Halle Berry became the the first black woman to win the best actress Oscar for Monster’s Ball in 2002. In an interview with Teen Vogue Berry reflected back on her Oscar win as a “moment [that] really meant nothing.” She went on to suggest that she “was profoundly hurt by that and saddened by that and it inspired me to try to get involved in other ways.”
In this new article posted on BBC today, Neil Smith points to the ways in which such responses from black actresses and actors have driven the Academy to announce that “it is inviting 774 new members from 57 countries in an effort to boost diversity.”
Actors Naomie Harris, Riz Ahmed and Warwick Davis are among those invited to join, with the Oscars organisers saying 39% of the new class are women, boosting the overall female membership to 28%, up three points from 2015. It added that the new membership is also nearly a third non-white, with the number of non-white voters now at 13%, up from 8% two years ago.
Neil Smith asked our own, Sarita Malik, an expert in diversity and screen media, if Berry is right to feel aggrieved. Sarita suggested that,
What Halle Berry says reveals the burden of representation that has historically been placed on black actors, films and representations more widely – the idea these have to deal with the persistent problem of under-representation. Her disappointment has come to characterise our expectations, where we are led to believe that more and better kinds of diverse representation will follow these rare successes. The Oscars is a big deal because of its international profile, its legacy and as a barometer of the cultural mood. If the Oscars is virtually all-white, as historically it has tended to be, this says something about the kinds of culture we celebrate and support. But it also reveals the kinds of films that are commissioned, funded and made visible through marketing and distribution. The past couple of years have usefully brought to the fore important public debates about diversity in the film industry and it is a positive step that the Academy’s membership is being broadened. It’s important that there is more diversity in leadership but also that, rather than churning out more and more diversity initiatives, the question of why such inequality exists is tackled head-on.
Read the whole article here.