Steve McQueen Hopes Oscar Diversity Backlash Can Be a ‘Watershed Moment’

Steve McQueen Oscar Diversity
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“12 Years a Slave” director Steve McQueen has weighed in on the ongoing controversy surrounding the lack of non-white acting nominees at the 2016 Oscars, saying he hopes it will be a “watershed moment” for the industry.

“Hopefully, when people look back at this in 20 years, it’ll be like seeing that David Bowie clip in 1983.” McQueen said in an interview with the Guardian, referring to an interview Bowie did with MTV where he slammed the network for not showing enough music videos with black artists, which has recirculated following Bowie’s recent death. “Forgive me; I’m hoping in 12 months or so we can look back and say this was a watershed moment, and thank God we put that right.”

McQueen became the first, and currently only, black director to win a best picture Oscar when “12 Years a Slave” took home the gold in 2014.  Lupita Nyong’o also won best supporting actress for her role in the film. In the two years since, however, all the nominees in the Oscars’ acting categories have been white.

Continuing to use MTV as a comparison, McQueen said, “This is exactly like MTV was in the 1980s. Could you imagine now if MTV only showed music videos by a majority of white people, then after 11 o’clock it showed a majority of black people? Could you imagine that happening now? It’s the same situation happening in the movies.”

McQueen doesn’t blame the Academy alone, though, which recently announced a sweeping reform of its membership policies to allow for a more diverse membership. The “real battle” lies in the movies that hit theaters, the filmmaker maintained.

“One could talk about percentages of certain people who are Academy members and the demographics and so forth, but the real issue is movies being made,” he said. “Decisions being made by heads of studios, TV companies and cable companies about what is and is not being made. That is the start. That is the root of the problem.”

The Oscar winner also addressed the lack of diversity behind the camera, which he attempted to remedy on the set of “12 Years.”

“I expressly said in a meeting, ‘Look, I can’t make this movie in a situation where I don’t see any black faces other than my own behind the camera. We need to employ certain people.’ I made that very clear and it was attended to,” he said. Two black assistant directors went on to work on the drama.

McQueen is only the latest to add his voice into the fray. Spike Lee and husband and wife Will and Jada Pinkett Smith have announced that they will not be attending the show for its lack of diverse nominees, and the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite was revived after first catching fire last year. Meanwhile, Charlotte Rampling, nominated for her role in “45 Years,” accused the backlash of being “racist against whites.”

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  1. CW says:

    According to The Economist, blacks have been over-represented at the Oscars since 2000. Hispanics and Asians are then groups that have been under-represented. But it won’t matter because apparently your skin color determines the quality of your performance.

  2. Michael Durbin says:

    The “boycott” advocates have yet to name any undeserving nominees. Until they can name the undeserving actors, they cannot credibly allege anyone was “snubbed” or that the nominating process was flawed.

    Additionally, the Oscars honor excellence, and the notion that excellence needs to be diverse is laughable. Imagine if the Olympics stated that their goal was manufacturing diversity among the medalist. Sorry, Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt you had the a best performance but someone of your race has already won today, so the medal goes to one of your less-deserving competitors.

    Finally, isn’t it ironic that there is a glaring lack of diversity among the entertainers promoting a “boycott” of the Oscars? If you want to see mediocre performances rewarded based on race, watch the Essence awards. If you want to see excellence rewarded, watch the Oscars (until they institute a quota system).


  3. JAFOWM says:

    There really is no chance of ever ending perceived racism. Nothing will ever be enough for blacks until they can own white people as slaves. It is not about equality, it is about getting even. They are not interested in equal opportunity, only equal outcome. The first words they learn are not mama or dada but “it’s ’cause I’m black, isn’t it?” The first card they ever get is not a birthday card but a race card and they play it for the rest of their lives. To them racism is something that is practiced against them but never practiced by them and diversity is a one street. #BlacksSoWhiney

  4. aTomS says:

    So, merit will have no basis in the Oscars anymore?

  5. Freddy Glass says:

    okay, i said gay, so that will get beeped out…can’t say gay….but 12 Years was great film, with great acting…and very talented cast…concussion is rubbish…

  6. Freddy Glass says:

    all the problems and these fakes are crying about a little gold naked gay man…

  7. Brad says:

    What an awesome talent McQueen must be since he managed to win an Oscar even though he’s black! He must be a lot better than Spike Lee. Wait, it’s probably that all the old white men suffering from dementia in the academy must have thought that Steve McQueen from “The Great Escape” had directed this film because they are obviously racist.

    • spiritequality says:

      Technically McQueen didn’t win an award for his directing. Best Picture is awarded to a film’s producers but McQueen didnt win for Best Director (he got an award as a co-producer). How can a film win Best Picture, but the director isn’t nominated for Best Director? The answer leads one to questions about racial exclusion once again. It has happened before but does not usually happen when one film sweeps multiple awards as 12 Years did

  8. Heather says:

    Calling it now. Next year Ride along 2 will be nominated for best picture and best actor for Kevin Hart.

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