On Saturday, Spike Lee accepted an honorary Oscar at the Governors Awards in Los Angeles. But he wasn’t in the mood to kiss the Academy’s ass so much as light a fire under it. “It’s easier to be the president of the United States as a black person than to be the head of a studio,” said Lee. The director continued, “We can talk, you know, yabba, yabba, yabba, but we need to have some serious discussion about diversity, and get some flave up in here!”
Fortunately, some serious discussion is finally starting to happen, and the Academy is taking action.
Earlier in the evening, the Academy President, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, announced A2020, which The Hollywood Reporter describes as “a five-year plan to study practices at the Academy with the aim of improving the diversity of its own staff and governance while also bringing new voices into the organization. It is also intended to encourage and to push the industry to examine its hiring practices and to begin to make changes.” Diversity, here, refers to age, gender, race, national origin and point of view.
As Lee observed, Boone Isaacs is “trying to do something that needs to be done.”
“When it comes to fair and equal representation in our industry, words are are not enough,” Boone explained. “We also have a responsibility to take action, and we have an unique opportunity to do so now.”
“This must truly be an industry-wide commitment,” she insisted. “We ask you to partner with us again in this critically important initiative.”
The honors at the award ceremony were decided by the Academy’s board of governors. Joining Lee in receiving an honorary Oscar was actress Gena Rowlands. Debbie Reynolds was named the recipient of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her work in mental health (though she was unable to attend due to medical issues).
Diversity was the theme of the evening, and Boone Isaacs stated that she was “pleased that this year, two of our honorees happen to be women and one an African-American man.” Indeed, The New York Times reports that “no white male took the stage until [two] hours and 24 minutes into the ceremony, when the writer-director Nick Cassavetes rose to introduce his mother, [Gena] Rowlands.”
It’s a nice change of pace from #OscarsSoWhite.