The #OscarsSoWhite controversy really set the tone and theme for last Sunday’s Oscars. Many big names openly boycotted the event in protest of the lack of diversity in Hollywood when, for the second consecutive year, no people of color were nominated for awards. Entertainment Weekly claims that this year’s Oscar ratings were the lowest they’ve been in years.
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“The 88th Annual Academy Awards were the least-watched telecast of the annual event in many years… The Oscars delivered 34.5 million viewers and a 10.4 rating among adults 18-49. That’s 6 percent fewer viewers from last year’s telecast, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, which was at a six-year low,” EW reports. So did the boycott really work?
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Despite the backlash and the call to step down, Chris Rock still took to the stage to host the Oscars. The music playing as Rock positioned himself center stage was not a classic Hollywood number. The host walked on stage to the sound of Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” before delivering his much anticipated opening monologue.
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The Oscars’ music supervisor, Byron Phillips, tells EW, “[We wanted to] really set the tone for what the night was going to be and do something that was representative of Chris, and who Chris was, and the vibe and tone Chris wanted to set for the evening. There was obviously nothing more perfect than ‘Fight the Power’ for that.”
In his monologue, Rock addressed the controversy head on. “Is Hollywood racist?” asked the host. “You’re damn right Hollywood’s racist.” The night followed with more references to the diversity issue in the movie industry.
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Academy president, Cheryl Boone Issacs, took to the stage that night to call on participation from everyone in the industry in creating a more inclusive Hollywood.
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“The Oscars celebrate the storytellers who have the opportunity to work in the powerful medium of film, and with that opportunity comes responsibility,” Issacs states. “Our audiences are global and rich in diversity, and every facet of our industry should be as well. Everyone in the Hollywood community has a role to play in bringing about the vital changes the industry needs so that we can accurately reflect the world today.”
Diversity was the focal point for the awards ceremony Sunday night as the #OscarsSoWhite controversy and demand for diversity was not disregarded. If anything, the boycott created suspense for the televised awards.
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The drop in viewership ratings can better be attributed to movies that were honored as, according to EW, “viewership tends to hinge on the popularity of the most-honored movies.” In fact, “insiders predicted a possible ratings drop given a heavy focus on indie titles like best picture winner Spotlight, along with films such as Room, The Danish Girl and Brooklyn.” With that said, who’s to say that a more inclusive Hollywood wouldn’t produce more viewers?