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April Reign is encouraged by the Academy’s response to the #OscarsSoWhite fallout, the hashtag she created, but won’t be watching the Feb. 28 Oscars ceremony.
“I think this is one step toward making the Academy more diverse and inclusive and so I appreciate president [Cheryl] Boone Isaacs spearheading this,” Reign told The Hollywood Reporter after the Academy unveiled several dramatic changes in an announcement on Friday morning. “I would hope that a more diverse Academy will pressure Hollywood to make systemic changes as well.”
Faced with a growing boycott of this year’s Oscars over the lack of diverse nominees, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences vowed to change its structure and voting regulations in an effort to fix the recurring problem (for the second year in a row, black actors and movies were largely shut out). Its goal, the Academy said, is to double the number of women and diverse members of the Academy by 2020.
Reign, who created the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite last year when all the acting nominees were white, initially told THR that she was “disappointed but not surprised” when history repeated itself this year, and endorsed the boycott movement led by stars like Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith.
While Friday’s announcement is a sign that change can come, Reign, who is the managing editor of the website BroadwayBlack.com, maintains that she won’t be tuning in to this year’s show because “the issue still remains.”
“I still wont be watching the ceremony this year because that die has already been cast,” she says, adding that she will be providing counterprogramming for those who also aren’t watching (during last year’s Oscars, she used her Twitter account, which has 18,800 followers, to live-tweet the Eddie Murphy comedy Coming to America). “This is one strong step forward, but there is still work to be done — this is giving an aspirin to someone who has had a chronic headache for the last 80 years. And while this will be helpful, it is not a complete solution.”
Reign says the overall goal is to increase diversity and inclusion in film and in the Academy, and that while Friday’s announcement is proof of some of that becoming a reality, it’s not enough.
“There is still a concern with respect to Hollywood itself and how movies are made and by whom,” she said. “So even with a more diverse Academy, there is still an imperative to ensure that work by and for people of color and marginalized communities is made by the Hollywood studio heads. I still would like to see the Academy exert pressure on Hollywood and say that they want to be able to have the opportunity to nominate more diverse films.”
As for the overall response from both Hollywood and moviegoers alike, Reign hopes to see a positive one: “What this means is more opportunity for everyone.”
She adds, “We’ll see in the years ahead how this actually works in practice, but I’m encouraged by the Academy’s unanimous statement today.”
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