Addressing Representation & Inclusivity at the Academy Awards

Even though the Oscars typically don’t air until early Spring, people begin anticipating, analyzing and predicting which nominees will win the various Academy Awards – the highest honor in US for actors, writers and producers.

In recent years, the issue of representation – which has always been in the undercurrent – has become a focal point. People are asking why so many movies are full of white actors and a few token POC, and in turn, why the vast majority of Oscars are given to white producers/writers/directors/actors. The Academy has promised to address this issue in past years, but so far it has seemed like the cast of winners has gone from white to white with token POC.

Will they learn their lesson and put importance of representation in nominee choices for actors, artists, directors and producers this year?

The Oscars and Inclusivity: What’s Wrong Here?

Representation in media is about casts looking like us; and “us” isn’t white sprinkled with people of color. “Us” is a rich mix of many ethnicities, skin colors and languages. But representation is also about sloughing off ignorant and racist stereotypes typical of Hollywood productions. 

You know – the vaguely Southeast Asian friend who’s the nerd of the friend group; the African-American kid who’s just trying to get out of the hood; the Indian-ish friend who’s great with tech. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Differently-abled and neurodivergent characters are almost never played by actual people with those qualities, and white actors are often cast to play people outside their ethnicity. 

If you look next time you’re cozied up watching a movie in your media room, if you haven’t noticed these whitewashed casts before, you probably will now.

Not only are people calling for real changes in casting, they’re also calling for real changes in on-screen portrayals. So far, the Academy has made small, placative moves. In 2020, they crafted a document of minimum requirements and quotas for diversity in casting, writing, producing and filming. It’s basically just a quota system. But is it enough?

Nobody thinks so.

How Bad Is It? The Missing Faces in Hollywood Movies

As things sit today, in the last 10 years, 89% of all nominations have gone to white people, and 71% have gone to men. Oscar nominations and wins for African Americans sits at 6.3%, followed by Latino creatives at 2.6%. Asian artists garnered only 1.4% of all nominations and wins over the last 10 years.

Doesn’t exactly sound like the demographics we see in the real US, does it? The 2020 Census revealed that people who identify as white only account for 59% of the population, while African-Americans represent 13%, the Asian population represent 6%, Indigenous Americans represent 2%, and Latinos make up 18% of the US population. Among these demographics, in 2020, 3% of the population reported being multiracial. Have we seen this ratio represented in movies?


For those POC actors who do manage to get nominated for and/or win an Oscar, the majority of the time it’s for stereotypical racial roles – think back to Octavia Spencer, who won an Oscar for her role in The Help, where she played, you guessed it – the help. Or Denzel Washington’s Oscar for playing a crooked cop character in Training Day. It pigeonholes POC actors and reinforces damaging stereotypes to tens of millions of Americans who watch these movies.

And people of other ethnicities are even farther behind. Some people give credit to the Academy for upping the representation of African-American artists – but where are Asian, Indigenous American and Hispanic artists? We’ve got Guillermo Del Toro and that one movie Kumail Najiani was nominated for but didn’t win. Can you even name that movie off the top of your head? 

It’s called The Big Sick, and it’s awesome – heartwarming, funny, sad. It’s a great movie to sit back in your home theater and recline that seat into the perfect position. But have some tissues on hand; this one can be a real tear-jerker. 

In fact, make it a movie marathon day of watching POC-directed movies with the family. Jordan Peele’s Get Out is a great place to start.

Looking Forward & Enjoying Movies Made by People Who Look Like the Real “Us”

So, will the 2023 Oscars look any different? Will they have the guts to hold the Academy to account in choosing the nominees? And will they follow through on ensuring nominations are fair and purely about art – not familiarity, popularity and intraracial biases? We certainly hope so.

In the meantime, here are a few great movies produced by POC that you should queue up while we anticipate the start of Awards season:

African-American Artist 

First of all, every Jordan Peele creation, which he writes and directs, so far has been something else. Bizarre thrillers that abstractly frame real-world topics make for movies that keep you on the edge of your seat:

  • Get Out (psychological thriller)
  • Us (sci-fi horror)
  • Nope. (sci-fi Western)

Latino Artist 

Guillermo Del Toro is a prolific filmmaker and director, to say the least, and an absolute staple in the horror/thriller genre, but he has mastered several of the darker genres as well. A few of our favorite cult classics by this Mexican filmmaker include:

  • The Shape of Water (romantic sci-fi thriller)
  • Pan’s Labyrinth (weird puppet fantasy)
  • Crimson Peak (haunted house thriller)

Asian Artist

Ang Lee is a Taiwanese filmmaker who has made a bunch of really diverse movies you wouldn’t expect to have been directed by a Southeast Asian man, especially because many of them are period pieces full of white faces. Some of his best works include:

  • Life of Pi (psychological survival drama)
  • Brokeback Mountain (LGBT romantic Western)
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (epic quest thriller)

Native American Artist

Sterlin Harjo is a native to Oklahoma – literally. He is a part of the Seminole and Creek Nations of the First Peoples. A director who often teams with other indigenous artists, his films, much like Guillermo Del Toro’s, flawlessy cross genres:

  • Mekko (supernatural thriller drama)
  • Barking Water (romantic epic)
  • This May be the Last Time (personal historical documentary)