It's a well-established fact that the Oscars are pretty terrible. Inconsistent, masturbatory, and long to the point of absurdity, the event itself has become a favorite target of even pop culture writers, who are paid to idolize and obsess over movie stars. But not only is the telecast deeply flawed, the way the awards are decided is a travesty, too. In a recent review of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Los Angeles Times discovered that, of the academy's nearly 6,000 voters, the vast majority are white men over the age of 50.
With such a homogenous stable of voters, it's little wonder that films beloved by American audiences—which are composed of far more women and minorities than the academy—often lose or aren't nominated in the first place. People of color are also rarely nominated for acting and directing Oscars.
Today, a lot of people will spend time discussing how best to improve the Academy Awards as a television show, but that's the easy part: Make it shorter and get the actors drunker. We're more interested in how to improve the Academy Awards as a cultural indicator. Here, a few suggestions. If we miss anything, feel free to add others in the comments.
- Dissolve the voting pool, whose members are a secret, and allow only Academy Award winners to vote. One current Oscar voter is a 73-year-old nun who hasn't worked in movies in decades. If that's any indication of who's awarding Hollywood's biggest prize, things are perhaps further gone than anyone thought. Though allowing only Oscar winners to vote wouldn't take care of the academy's ethnic diversity problem, it would level the playing field when it came to gender and age. It would also ensure that the academy would never again become bloated with old people who aren't actually working in Hollywood, as the pool would be constantly replenishing itself.
- Make a concerted effort to racially integrate the academy's ranks. Like it or not—and you should probably like it—America is becoming more colorful than it's ever been. That the academy doesn't even come close to reflecting the diversity of race and opinion in the nation in which it operates is a mistake that should be rectified.
- Make the voters vote quarterly. Most of the movies studios believe have a great shot of winning an Oscar come out around the holidays, because the academy casts its ballots soon afterward. The result is an annual glut of dramas in theaters around Christmas, not to mention a forgotten band of sometimes worthy movies from the beginning of the year. If voters voted quarterly, they would have quality films from throughout the year fresh in their minds, and audiences wouldn't have to wait until November and December to see some great cinema.
- Create a separate category for comedy. As truly remarkable comedians like Louis C.K. prove, comedy is an art form. Alas, it's an art form that gets almost totally overshadowed at the Oscars, which nominates and awards gripping dramas far more than it does cheery audience favorites like Bridesmaids and Mean Girls. The Golden Globes has smartly nominated comedies and dramas in separate categories for years now. It's about time the Oscars got less snooty and did the same.