Chosen by the HFPA Board of Directors, the Cecil B. DeMille Award is given annually to "the talented individuals who have made an incredible impact on the world of entertainment." Recent recipients include, well, a whole bunch of straight white dudes:
Robert De Niro (2011), Martin Scorsese (2010), Steven Spielberg (2009), Warren Beatty (2007), Anthony Hopkins (2006), Robin Williams (2005), Michael Douglas (2004), Gene Hackman (2003), Harrison Ford (2002) and Al Pacino (2001).
Barbara Streisand was the last woman to win the award, and she was only the 12th in the now 49 years its been given out. And the HFPA can't suggest its because of lack of options. The award has historically been given mostly to actors and actresses (with a few directors), which is one of the very few components of the mainstream film industry where both men and women are considerably represented.
So while it's great they decided to opt for someone who wasn't white this year, why couldn't it have been a woman of color? No disrespect to the great Morgan Freeman, but Cicely Tyson would have been a fantastic alernative, especially given her work in "The Help" this year. Or perhaps a posthumous award to the legendary Lena Horne, who died last May.
But it's too late now. Let's just hope the HFPA starts thinking outside its very narrow box in years to come.