The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ new metrics for inclusion — which call for Best Picture contenders to check a certain number of boxes to meet diversity requirements — have been hotly debated since announcing on September 8. While some argue this levels the playing field to allow for more diverse creators to make their stories known, others say this tampers with creative expression. The bylaws’ detractors include Bill Maher, who on “Real Time” Friday night argued against what he calls forcing artists to abide by a “to-do list,” but he also turned to the Academy’s history to suggest that gestures toward diversity, however hollow, have been there all along. Watch below.
“Have you watched the Oscars this century? This seems like a case of washing a glass that’s already been through the dishwasher,” Maher said, rattling off a list of “diverse” Best Picture nominees and winners that include “Green Book,” “Parasite,” “The Shape of Water,” “Precious,” “A Beautiful Mind,” “Moonlight,” “Fences,” “12 Years a Slave,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “Call Me By Your Name,” and “The Hours.” “The Academy is not exactly unknown for awarding liberal virtue. They should call Best Picture ‘most worthy,'” he said. “Look at the contenders and winners in recent years. They were nominated not by their popularity with audiences, but by diversity and virtue-signaling.”
Naming the Academy’s criteria to define diversity across various ethnic categories, Maher said, “Wouldn’t it be easier to just say ‘not Chris Pine?'”
Maher added, “Diversity is important. But it needs to be said: It’s not the only thing that’s important. It’s also important that we don’t wind up with artists guided less by a creative vision and more by a to-do list. Cameron Diaz is Cuban on her grandmother’s side. Is that Latina enough?”
He also said, “We are talking about a world where if you want to make the next ‘Schindler’s List,’ the first thing you’ll need to do is give a racial breakdown of all your employees. Does anyone see the irony in that?… Some of the best movies ever made were by refugees from communist and fascist countries who got out because they didn’t like being told what art was acceptable.”
Read IndieWire’s deep dive into the new AMPAS standards for diversity here.