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GLT Culture Maven: Oscar Is Slow To Change

Statue of Oscar
Danny Moloshok/Invision/AP
Another year of controversy rests on the muscular golden shoulders of Oscar.

Criticism regarding the lack of racial and gender diversity in the nominees for the Oscar has dogged the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for years.

Dissatisfaction has taken the form of the hashtags #OscarSoWhite  and OscarSoMale and so on. Social media shaming can't bring change to the film industry on its own, but it can help, said Shari Zeck, GLT's Culture Maven and interim dean of Milner Library at Illinois State University. She said it will take more than Twitter to create lasting change.

"#OscarSoWhite certainly brought attention to something that was very, very wrong. I have to wonder though, there's so many hashtags, there's no room in Twitter for actual text. I think we might be in a kind of overload situation right now. I think the hashtags may be more of an obligation rather than actual activism," said Zeck.

Responding to criticism, the Academy has endeavored to add diversity to its ranks. Those efforts could finally bring about positive change, said Zeck.

"For many, many years, the Academy was dominated by much older people. Frankly, a lot of those folks have died and the age of voters is coming down. So the demographic is getting younger in the Academy.  There is general acknowledgement of problems of racism and sexism within the Academy," said Zeck.

"Now the films coming out are putting pressure on the Academy, as well. There are a lot more African-Americans and women who are getting their films made, getting them distributed and getting them out there in front of a public that is appreciative. So all of those things are putting pressure on the Academy to change," Zeck added.

The Oscars this year also have to contend with recent sex scandals and sexual harassment dinging the industry. Last year's Best Actor award winner, Casey Affleck, has had charges of harassment recently leveled against him. As a result, he has bowed out of the traditional role of handing out the Best Actress Oscar this year. Zeck is cynical regarding his motivation.

"Did he do the right thing morally? The right thing morally would have been to not have behaved badly. He pulled out of the Oscars because he doesn't want to be publicly excoriated. There's no moral win for him here. That was self-preservation," said Zeck.

Hear what ISU alum Zeck is rooting for at this year's Oscars.

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Reporter, content producer and former All Things Considered host, Laura Kennedy is a native of the Midwest who occasionally affects an English accent just for the heck of it. Related to two U.S. presidents, Kennedy appalled her family by going into show business.