By: Alexandra Travis
Social media always covers awards season extensively. People wait on the edge of their seats to see if their favorite actor or singer has been nominated for their latest project. They then take to Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat to express their support or disdain over who received nominations. This time last year, social media was in an uproar over the release of Oscar nominations. It was immediately apparent that there was a serious lack of nominations for actors of color. Even movies with mostly black casts like “Straight Outta Compton” only received a nomination for its white screenwriters, and people were fed up.
April Reign created #OscarsSoWhite in 2015, another year where there were no nominations for people of color. It was revived last year over the outrage that there could be no worthy nominees of color for two years in a row. Black Twitter spread and popularized the hashtag; it was impossible to scroll through your timeline and not see someone tweeting about the Oscars. The many tweets bearing the hashtag generated a lot of support, and was a great way to get conversation started about the issue. Black Twitter was once again a great platform for people whose opinions would not normally be heard. No Twitter user assumes that their tweet will be noticed by the Academy, but there is certainly strength in numbers.
The popularity of #OscarsSoWhite put pressure on the Academy to make an immediate change. With celebrities boycotting the award show over the lack of inclusion, it was obvious that the time for change had come. The board of governors of the academy fast tracked their plan to eliminate the votes of many older members of the Academy, which are overwhelmingly white and male. Without Black Twitter flooding timelines with #OscarsSoWhite and their outrage over the nominations, the initiative to diversify members of the Academy would have taken years. Black Twitter had to let the Academy know that the lack of inclusion was recognized and it would not be stood for.
This year’s Oscar nominations do not at all reflect the trends of last year, but instead make it apparent that #OscarsSoWhite was acknowledged and taken seriously. This year there are black nominees in all four acting categories. In addition to tying a record set in 2007 with seven minority actors being recognized, a new record of six black actors receiving nominations was set. These actors include Denzel Washington, Ruth Nega, Mahershala Ali, Viola Davis, Naomie Harris and Octavia Spencer.
The difference between nominations for last year’s Oscars compared to this year’s nominees is so stark, it is undeniable that social media played a role in the change. Many people would not have even been aware that there was a lack of black actors and actresses recognized if it were not for the several tweets and posts on their timelines sporting #OscarsSoWhite. Seeing what a difference a hashtag can make, it is no wonder that they have recently been applied to other award shows. #GrammysSoWhite has also become popular since it has been noticed that over the past several years, the Album of the Year award has been given to white performers over equally qualified black performers. We can only hope that this hashtag will be as successful in holding people responsible and making a change. Nonetheless, it is certain that if you enjoyed the more diverse nominations and winners of the Oscar’s 2017, you can thank twitter for that.