The two-year quest to call out the Oscars for its lack of African-American nominees could conclude this year. This past Sunday's Golden Globe Awards, the precursor to the Academy Awards, foreshadowed an #OscarsNotSoWhite.
Golden Globe winners included the romance Moonlight, as well as actors Viola Davis and Donald Glover. At the Oscars, Davis and Denzel Washington are likely to vie for top honors (both for performances in Fences).
But some of the people behind last year's diversity boycott of the Academy Awards say the fight is still on in 2017. The focus this time will be on Latinos. And black leaders will continue to lead the charge.
Three Latinos were up for Golden Globes Sunday — Gael Garcia Bernal for Amazon series Mozart in the Jungle, Gina Rodriguez for comedy acting in TV's Jane the Virgin and Lin-Manuel Miranda for film songwriting (Moana) — and all three went home empty-handed.
The CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, Alex Nogales, is meeting this week with one of the organizers of last year's Oscars diversity boycott, Najee Ali, to possibly join forces in protesting the industry's dearth of Latinos.
“It's disturbing to see the lack of Latinos and Asian-Americans in Hollywood,” says Ali, founder of Project Islamic Hope. “Their stories are just ignored by Hollywood, as if they don't exist. From the very beginning we had the mindset of all for one and one for all. Until all minorities have a chance to have their stories told and a chance to work in front and behind the camera, our boycott won't be ending.”
Nogales' organization has for decades taken on Hollywood's lack of diversity, issuing report cards on the efforts of major television networks and hosting a well-regarded writers workshop for industry hopefuls. Progress has been slow. In fact, because the Latino population has blossomed — it surpassed whites in California and is the largest minority in the United States — Hollywood diversity has actually gotten worse in recent years, according to UCLA's annual Hollywood Diversity Report. Latino actors filled only 5 percent of the scripted broadcast roles that researchers examined for last year's report, which found that “Latinos were the most underrepresented among the minority groups” in the industry.
While awards aren't the sole indicator of improved diversity, the Golden Globes are highly influential, particularly when it comes to film and acting nominations. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is a secretive group of mostly white freelancers from out of town who cover Hollywood intermittently. Hollywood itself can be seen as a world apart in a county where three out of four people are nonwhite.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences last year took #OscarsSoWhite criticism seriously and announced it would phase out lifetime membership, which allowed older, whiter awards voters to remain in the mix. It also said it would double minority membership by 2020.
Still, Mexican-Americans, as Chris Rock famously wrote in 2014, are seen by the day-to-day industry mostly as a service class — good for watching babies, not so good for watching on screen. “You're in L.A., you've got to try not to hire Mexicans,” he stated in an essay on film and TV diversity for The Hollywood Reporter.
“Latinos are being left out of the equation,” Nogales says. “We have been very patient. We're not prepared to be very patient anymore.”
While the median individual income in L.A. County is about $28,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average salary for film and TV jobs is $117,000, according to a 2012 study by the L.A. Economic Development Corporation. Diversity in Hollywood is about economic justice. But it's about more than that, Nogales argues. With a president-elect who's ascending to office after calling Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists, Hollywood can help counter the stereotype that so many voters appeared to accept.
“These years are going to be very dangerous for Latinos,” Nogales says. “It's not just actors getting jobs. How we're perceived is going to be how we're treated.”