The Best Picture Diversity Requirements Are A Perfect Example of Hollywood’s Corporatist Hypocrisy

Harrison Whitaker
3 min readSep 9, 2020

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recently announced a set of standards that films will have to meet starting in 2024 if they want to compete for the Best Picture prize. Jesus wept.

I am in no way against the ethos of these standards — anyone familiar with my weekly essays on film will be well aware of my fascination with political cinema, particularly those movies which are directed by voices from underrepresented groups. What I am also not is one of the numerous online conservatives throwing their hands up in the air at how the radical left has overtaken the film industry — oh what a day that would be.

Photo by Ahmet Yalçınkaya on Unsplash

Don’t get me wrong, there is a case to be made that some of these recommendations are artistically stifling, i.e. how powerful can the political messaging of a film truly be if its subject matter is being explicitly encouraged by the most powerful body in all of filmmaking? Even so, I am not a filmmaker and therefore cannot render a fair judgement on this.

What I can judge is how blatantly hypocritical these measures are. If the goal of increasing diversity in film is to ultimately use film as a tool for the betterment of society, then there are some other pretty important requirements I think Best Picture nominees should meet, such as:

  1. No Involvement From the Department of Defense

From Zero Dark Thirty to Captain Marvel, from Hulk to Top Gun, Hollywood simply cannot seem to get tried of collaborating with the U.S. Military — and why would they? In exchange for portraying the world’s most powerful fighting force in a positive light, they get access to guns, vehicles, and (most importantly) cash that they simply wouldn’t have otherwise. Hell, even the first Best Picture winner, 1927’s Wings, was made in partnership with the DoD.

Of course, per the Academy’s new guidelines, militaristic propaganda is a-ok provided that the cast and/or crew is suitably diverse.

2. No Involvement From the Chinese Government

In 1998, following the release of Martin Scorsese’s biopic of the young Dalai Lama Kundun, then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner had the following to say about the film which, due to its subject matter, was banned in China: “The bad news is that the film was made; the good news is that nobody watched it. Here I want to apologize, and in the future we should prevent this sort of thing, which insults our friends, from happening.”

Eisner, along with the rest of Hollywood, has entirely kept his promise. The appeal of reaching a billion-person market is just too powerful, leading Hollywood to hold off on producing a single major film critical of the Chinese government this century.

3. Turn Words into Action

You’re concerned about wealth gaps? Start making your films profit sharing enterprises wherein those who actually make it get appropriate cuts of the box office. You’re concerned about the environment? Hold those who destroying the planet to account.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand that none of the above will actually be adopted by the Academy or Hollywood writ large anytime soon. That alone should be enough to show you what these diversity requirements truly are: window dressing. They’re verbal costumes designed to give a regressive institution a radical countenance. Until Hollywood comes to terms with these facts, it will remain what it has been for decades — little more than propaganda.

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Harrison Whitaker

Haver of opinions. Lover of some things, hater of others.