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Roots of #OscarsSoWhite run deeper than the Academy, down to roles and screenplays

The 88th Academy Awards were announced on Jan. 14, and for the second year in a row, all white actors and actresses were nominated, leaving out minority actors, according to Variety website. Films like “Creed,” “Beasts of No Nation” and “Straight Outta Compton” were considered “biggest snubs” by both, viewers and critics, alike, according to a list on the IMDb website. Yet, who is really to blame: the Academy or the film industry itself? “Hollywood has been conscious of diversity for many years now,” Christopher Sharrett, professor of visual theory and media studies, said. Director Spike Lee and actors like Morgan Freeman and Michael Peña are household names thanks to their films. However, aside from the actors who end up in blockbusters, minorities in leading roles or behind the camera run very thin in the film industry. According to a 2015 study conducted by BUNCHE, majority of actors and directors outnumbered minorities by 2 to 1. “I am very challenged to find short films that are written or directed by women or people of color, or that even feature main characters who are women or people of color,” Apryl Lee, professor of short film screenwriting, said. Even in short films, which are more independent and usually do not rely on big studios, diverse filmmakers are hard to find. “If the only examples we see are that of white men, it's a distorted view,” Lee said. Screenwriters are the people responsible for creating the characters of a film. The source of these characters can come from anywhere. “My characters derive from people that I’ve either encountered at some point in time, or characters I’ve seen on television,” Staysha Taylor, a junior communications major, said. Television and film influence many people especially those who end up pursuing it in the future. “To go against the grain of what’s acceptable in broadcast media is very risky,” Taylor said. “When I'm writing the screenplays, I don't necessarily worry too much about the race of the characters.” Daniela Rios, a senior broadcasting-TV production major, said. “However, when casting comes around, I don't limit the characters to only white or Hispanic or black.” Casting directors also play a role by picking actors to represent the characters and they can sometimes cast someone not fitting the written description of a character ass was the case when Gwendoline Christie took the role of the initially male role of Captain Phasma in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” according IMDb website. There are many factors that go into play when talking about diversity in film, but the overall problem is one that is getting more and more attention every year. Zachary Wohl can be reached at


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