On Wednesday, Latino congressman Tony Cárdenas wrote an open letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences expressing outrage over the lack of diversity among this year’s Oscar nominations. “While the issue of diversity in the entertainment industry is a much deeper problem, without an easy solution, it is unfortunate to see such a revered American institution fail to fully reflect our nation,” he wrote. His sentiments echo the anger expressed across social and news media outlets since the nominations were announced in January, especially over Selma‘s Best Director and Best Actor snubs.
To put the nominees of the “whitest Oscars since 1998” in historical context, designer Bård Edlund created an animation that visualizes diversity statistics among Oscar winners since the awards began in 1929. The numbers across four categories–Best Actor/Actress, Supporting Actor/Actress, writing (original and adapted screenplays), and directing–are visualized as Oscar statuettes made from animated gold and silver marbles, with each marble representing a winner. Silver marbles symbolize Hispanic, Asian, and black winners; gold marbles represent white winners. “I like the nod to associations of silver and gold one has in a competitive context,” Edmund explained in an email. “Silver lets you stand on the podium, but it’s still ‘not quite good enough.'”
The animation puts some depressing numbers in perspective: In 87 years, in the best actor and actress categories, there have been only five black winners (Sidney Poitier was the first, in 1964), one Hispanic winner, and two Asian winners. There have so far been no Hispanic winners in the Best Screenplay category–if Alejandro Iñárritu wins Best Screenplay for Birdman, that will change. And there have been no black winners in the Best Director category–if Selma director Ava DuVernay had been nominated and won, she would have been the first black female to receive that honor. Only seven of the 803 screenplays ever nominated for an Oscar have been penned by black writers. As a hashtag that cropped up after the Selma snub put it, #OscarsSoWhite.