According to Isaacs the Academy has taken steps in recent years to include a wider range of people that more accurately represent the diverse population of the film making community. “But the change is not coming as fast as we would like,” she says. “We need to do more, and better and more quickly.”
A sentiment that was echoed in a statement made by British actor Idris Elba to Parliament, also on Monday night. While stateside, Isaacs lamented the lack of diversity amongst this years’ Oscar nominees, Elba bemoaned the lack of diversity in the kind of roles available to women and minorities in British television.
“Are black people often playing petty criminals? Are women always playing the love interest or talking about men? Are gay people always stereotyped? Are disabled people hardly ever seen?”
Though Elba himself has worked consistently in television since the mid-90s, the kind of roles he was booking left something to be desired.
“I was busy, I was getting lots of work, but I realized I could only play so many ‘best friends’ or ‘gang leaders.’ I knew I wasn’t going to land a lead role. I knew there wasn’t enough imagination in the industry for me to be seen as a lead,” said Elba, who broke out on American television on HBO’s The Wire in 2002. “In other words, if I wanted to star in a British drama like Luther, then I’d have to go to a country like America.”
Interesting, considering I suspect that most Americans view British television casting choices as the more diverse and imaginative of the two, especially when we see people of color like Elba starring on British series like Luther.Elba also pointed out that TV doesn’t accurately represent the diversity of the real the world.
“People in the TV world often aren’t the same as people in the real world. And there’s an even bigger gap between people who make TV, and people who watch TV,” he said. “I should know, I live in the TV world. And although there’s a lot of reality TV, TV hasn’t caught up with reality. Change is coming, but it’s taking its sweet time.”
This echoes a statement by Actor David Oyelowo, who presented the aforementioned AMPAS President Isaacs with the Rosa Parks Humanitarian Award at the King Legacy awards on Monday.Said Oyelowo, “The Academy is an institution in which they all say radical and timely change cannot happen quickly. It better happen quickly. The law of this country can change in a matter of months. It better come on. The Oscars is on February 28. Cheryl needs us to pray that by that date, change is going to come.”
Moral of the story? There are lots of people out there who are fighting for change. And while it is happening, it’s a maddeningly slow process. One can only hope that with more and more people coming forward either straight up boycotting the Oscars as Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith plan to, or speaking openly about the need for change within the organization, such as Oyelowo and President Isaacs have done, that those changes will happen now. Because how long can we keep saying “soon”?