In the announcement of a slate of award nominees for this year’s Oscars by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences,’ that is once again significantly male and overwhelmingly Caucasian, a decision that gave birth to the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, just five years ago, which became one of the biggest names in popular literature is drawing criticism for defending the homogeneity of this year’s nominees.
Horror novelist Stephen King, whose own works have been adapted to film with varying degrees of success, shared a pair of tweets yesterday morning that said:
“As a writer, I am allowed to nominate in just three 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. That said… / I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.”
And in an ideal scenario, King would be right. All things being equal, filmmakers certainly should not be, as another King put it some 56 years ago, “judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” or in this case, their art. But that was, and continues to be (albeit decreasingly), a dream, because even today, all things are not equal. As King’s fellow novelist Laura Lippman rightly responded: “A meritocracy could work only if the game weren’t rigged.”
King’s Tweet explanation
“The most important thing we can do as artists and creative people is to make sure everyone has the same fair shot, regardless of sex, color, and orientation. Right now, such people are badly under-represented, and not only in the arts. / You can’t win awards if you’re shut out of the game.”
Given his professional and personal history, it’s doubtful that Stephen King would imply that non-white non-males get nominated for and win fewer awards because they inherently produce fewer worthy works of art. Instead, as usual, this is a clear case of a mere tweet or two only barely grazing the surface of a vastly complicated social issue, and thereby misrepresenting the author’s opinions.