As soon as the Academy Award nominations were announced, a disturbing trend emerged: #OscarsSoWhite. Again.
The hashtag (created by attorney April Reign) went viral last year when not a single person of color was nominated for an acting award and "Selma" was largely shut out. This year, the Oscars tell the same story: All of the nominees in the acting categories are all white.
There were multiple possible contenders this year, such as smash hit "Straight Outta Compton," the hip-hop biopic that crushed the box office; critical favorite "Beasts of No Nation" with Idris Elba; and the much-hailed "Creed," starring Michael B. Jordan and written and directed by Ryan Coogler. Will Smith (a recent Golden Globe nominee) was also shut out for controversial football movie "Concussion."
Film historian Mark Harris pointed out that both "Creed" and "Straight Outta Compton" weren't completely snubbed -- it's just that both their nominations went to white actors and writers. Sylvester Stallone, gaining momentum after a Golden Globe win on Sunday, landed a best supporting actor nod for reprising his Rocky Balboa role in "Creed," while Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff received a best original screenplay nomination for "Straight Outta Compton."
According to Harris, this is also the first time since 1998 that the Oscars have gone back-to-back years without nominating a single black actor.
How does this happen? Though money normally drives every decision in Hollywood, finances have nothing to do with this one. As The Washington Post's Drew Harwell reported, diverse movies make a ton of money, even if they are regularly ignored by prestige awards -- or dubbed "surprise" hits when they rake in cash at the box office. About 73 percent of characters in the top 100 films last year were white. Harwell noted that this starts from the top, as the majority of film executives are white as well.
"When I go to (film studio) offices, I see no black folks except for ... the security guard," director Spike Lee said. "It's easier to be the president of the United States as a black person than to be the head of a studio."
There were hints that there would be a major lack of diversity at this year's Academy Awards early on, when The Hollywood Reporter failed to put a woman of color on its annual Oscar roundtable cover. Sensing backlash before it was even published, the executive managing editor pre-emptively wrote an open letter titled "Why Every Actress on The Hollywood Reporter Roundtable Cover Is White": "The awful truth is that there are no minority actresses in genuine contention for an Oscar this year," he wrote.