Stephen King is on the receiving of backlash for his recent tweets questioning the criticism surrounding the lack of diversity at this year’s Oscars.
In a tweet he shared on Tuesday, the best-selling author talked about his three Oscar nominations for best picture, adapted screenplay and original screenplay, then added that diversity is not a consideration for him when he votes as a member of the Academy.
“As a writer, I am allowed to nominate in just 3 categories: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Screenplay. For me, the diversity issue—as it applies to individual actors and directors, anyway—did not come up,” he wrote.
“I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong,” he continued, implying that quality and diversity are mutually exclusive ideas.
His words came amid nationwide criticism of the Academy for its lack of diversity with this year’s nominees. Harriet star Cynthia Erivo was notably the only person of color nominated in an acting category for the 2020 Oscars. (Her song, “Stand Up,” also received a nod for Best Song.)
Despite the viral hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, which began in 2015, and the movement toward inclusion and diversity it later spawned—even making the Academy rehaul its membership—the film and creatives nominated continue to be majority White and male.
Many names we know, love and respect took on King for his comments, including Ava DuVernay who called his comments “so backward and ignorant you want to go back to bed.”
She was not the only one. Writer Roxane Gay also shared her two cents:
“As a fan, this is painful to read from you. It implies that diversity and quality cannot be synonymous,” she wrote. “They are not separate things. Quality is everywhere but most industries only believe in quality from one demographic. And now, here you are.”
“Damn, Stephen. Damn. I thought you were better than this. It should be obvious that diversity and quality *aren’t separate qualities,* or in opposition to each other — except in the minds of bigots,” award-winning science fiction N.K. Jemisin added. “Damn.”
Hours later, King came back online to seemingly walk back his comments with another tweet.
“The most important thing we can do as artists and creative people is make sure everyone has the same fair shot, regardless of sex, color, or orientation,” he tweeted. “Right now such people are badly under-represented, and not only in the arts.”
He added: “You can’t win awards if you’re shut out of the game.”