When this year’s Oscar nominations dropped a few weeks ago, people definitely noticed that the field was even more dominated by white male nominees (and their stories) than usual. The snubs did not lie in that regard, and nomination co-presenter Issa Rae even got vocal about the lack of females on the Best Directors list. Academy member Stephen King then made some uncomfortable remarks on Twitter that didn’t go over well.
“…I would never consider diversity in matters of art,” the horror novelist wrote. “Only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.” Within a tweet thread, he added that, of the three categories in which he’s allowed to nominate, “the diversity issue … did not come up.”
King was widely called out on social media, including by When They See Us director, Ava DuVernay, who lamented what she called “backward and ignorant” remarks that pointed toward a meritocracy mindset that’s maintained by a predominantly white-male membership (who might not even be conscious of their own bias). King felt the backlash and stopped tweeting on the subject, and now he’s penned a Washington Post column that walks back his tweets while stating that the Oscars “are still rigged in favor of white people.” He further elaborated upon polarized “lines of belief,” in which people can easily trip themselves up and be ostracized. King then admits that he messed up:
“I stepped over one of those lines recently, by saying something on Twitter that I mistakenly thought was noncontroversial: ‘I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.’ The subject was the Academy Awards. I also said, in essence, that those judging creative excellence should be blind to questions of race, gender or sexual orientation.”
What was missing in his tweets, according to King, is the following dose of nuance. He also mentions DuVernay’s work:
“I did not say that was the case today, because nothing could be further from the truth. Nor did I say that films, novels, plays and music focusing on diversity and/or inequality cannot be works of creative genius. They can be, and often are. Ava DuVernay’s 2019 Netflix miniseries, When They See Us, about the wrongful convictions of the Central Park Five, is a splendid case in point.”
As of this writing, DuVernay has not responded on Twitter to King’s column, but there’s still a few weeks left for discussion before the Oscars. Meanwhile, King’s The Outsider novel is currently being adapted by HBO and stars Cynthia Erivo, who spoke out on how “it’s not enough” to be the sole actor of color nominated by the Academy (for Harriet) this year. Following King’s remarks, Erivo told Entertainment Weekly, “I think now we just have to open the doors and open our eyes to those people who are making the work.”
The Oscars will broadcast on Sunday, February 9 on ABC.
(Via Washington Post)