Just in case the reality check of #OscarsSoWhite has yet to fully sink in, Bloomberg has updated its incredible data visualization from last year, which charts the race, gender, age—even hair color!—of the past 87 years of Academy Awards Best Actor and Actress winners.
Long story short, over the course of 174 Oscars being given out in these two categories, non-white people have won just eight times (a measly 4%).
It’s heinously addictive to click through Bloomberg’s chart, rearranging nominees by other trends. Oscar winners tend to have never been nominated before. Women have blue eyes, men have brown. Ages vary, too. Women under 30 do quite well, while only one man under 30 has ever won (the men make it up easily when they’re over 50, though).
It’s a rare visualization that will really suck you in and entice you to analyze the data, but where it falls short is that there’s no baseline presented to any of this information. It leads you asking yourself questions, like, what’s the average height of a man? Is it a big deal that men under 5’8" don’t tend to win Oscars? How common are blue eyes anyway? They’re rare, right? Like really rare?
This baseline would be useful for the visualization; it would drive home the lack of diversity inside the Academy Awards even more.
Black hair, for instance, is the most popular hair color in the world, ranging across massive populations from Africa across Asia. And yet there are only three actors with black hair who have ever won, according to this chart. Madness.
Hair color encompasses more bias than any single racial breakdown. Because black hair encapsulates so many global ethnicities, its low Academy popularity demonstrates that a white sensibility is not just ignoring any one or two U.S. minority groups, it's ignoring the cross-culture world majority.
It’s a point that makes #OscarsSoWhite all the more cutting, but in my optimistic mind, more immediately solvable. As Hollywood stakes its fortunes more and more on the global audience—recently, Dwayne Johnson told us that when he makes a new film, his first question is how it will play internationally—it’s franchises like The Fast & The Furious, which feature a rainbow of stars, that are pulling in the big bucks, as films with diverse casts are shown to make more money worldwide. (Did you know, in fact, that Vin Diesel got his break writing, directing, and starring in a Sundance short that was specifically about his trouble getting cast due to his racial ambiguity?)
Big money doesn’t equate to Oscars acclaim, no, but the allure of profits will inevitably tempt more investment in diversity within Hollywood cinema. And with that investment, hopefully we will see more critical acknowledgement of diversity, too.