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Actress Jennifer Lawrence and Tom Sherak, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts, announce the nominees at the 84th Academy Awards Nominations Announcement, January 24, 2012 at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, California. Martin Scorsese's lavish 3D adventure "Hugo" won 11 Oscar nominations Tuesday, just ahead of hotly-tipped silent movie "The Artist" with 10 nods for Hollywood's top awards.
Sunday the Los Angeles Times released a stunning revelation about the current crop of voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
After surveying 5,100 members (and their reps) who decide who recieve Oscars, the newspaper discovered that 97% are white and 77 percent are men.
The Times also learned that of the 5,765 voting members, blacks and Hispanics only account for 4% of those who dole out the golden statuettes. And only 2 percent of AMPAS members are younger than 40 years old.
Some may argue that despite pearly white front-running films like "The Artist" (a silent film that celebrates old-time Hollywood), "The Decendents" (George Clooney struggling through Hawaii to find out the truth about his dying wife), and "Midnight in Paris" (the Woody Allen romanitic fantasy set in the City of Lights), "The Help" proves that white men can celebrate and identify well-made diverse films.
Unfortunately, many, including the Association of Black Women Historians took umbrage at the fictional book and subsequent film's portrayal of the black experience written by a white woman.
"During the 1960s, the era covered in The Help, legal segregation and economic inequalities limited black women's employment opportunities. Up to 90 per cent of working black women in the South labored as domestic servants in white homes. The Help’s representation of these women is a disappointing resurrection of Mammy—a mythical stereotype of black women who were compelled, either by slavery or segregation, to serve white families. Portrayed as asexual, loyal, and contented caretakers of whites, the caricature of Mammy allowed mainstream America to ignore the systemic racism that bound black women to back-breaking, low paying jobs where employers routinely exploited them. The popularity of this most recent iteration is troubling because it reveals a contemporary nostalgia for the days when a black woman could only hope to clean the White House rather than reside in it," the ABWH wrote.
With that said, "The Help" does have a chance in next Sunday's Oscars. It is nominated for Best Picture (although "The Artist" appears to be the favorite). Viola Davis is nominated for Best Actress (however many were blown away by Meryl Streep's portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady"). Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer are both nominated for Best Supporting Actress, but the spunky and delightful Bérénice Bejo of "The Artist" seems hard to beat.
Despite her skillful acting (and dancing), would Bejo even had a chance over Spencer if the voting membership included more women, especially more women of color?
Not only will we not know the answer to that question by Sunday, according to a longtime academy governor, the demographics may not change any time soon.
"We absolutely recognize that we need to do a better job," writer-director Phil Alden Robinson told the Times. But "we start off with one hand tied behind our back.... If the industry as a whole is not doing a great job in opening up its ranks, it's very hard for us to diversify our membership."