#OscarsSoWhite: Social Media As Social Awareness

This Sunday, Hollywood royalty will descend upon the Dolby Theater for the 88th Academy Awards ceremony. However, for the 2nd year in a row, a heavy cloud weighs over the proceedings, as audiences have been vocal on social media about the show’s lack of diversity. What makes this outcry so relevant to social media professionals is that it all started from a hashtag: #OscarsSoWhite. While Twitter and the like are used for countless reasons, such as marketing, random updates, etc., one interesting development of these platforms is how social issues are becoming more loudly heard. While an award show for the wealthy and famous might not seem like an important social issue, it brings up the greater issue of the lack of diversity in Hollywood and the less than adequate number of quality jobs for African Americans and other minorities.


In advance of Sunday’s proceedings, let’s discuss the brief history of #OscarsSoWhite and how it helped create such a debate. In January 2015, after zero actors of color were nominated for an Academy Award, former lawyer, current writer and social media enthusiast, April Reign, created the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. It was instantly a buzz worthy hashtag because of the general exclusion for Selma, a film about Martin Luther King, Jr. While it was a hot topic in the industry, the year was considered an anomaly due to the progress the Academy had made in the new millennium when it came to nominating/awarding actors of color. 12 Years a Slave had even won Best Picture in 2014. People ultimately expected things to change in 2016. However, when the nominations were announced last month and every major acting nominee was white, the hashtag returned with a vengeance and the mainstream media took a closer examination at the problem.


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Photo: Reuters

After the nominations were announced on January 14th, #OscarsSoWhite has led to major discussions about the lack of diversity in the Academy and, more importantly, in Hollywood. As in 2015, film fans initially took to Twitter once the nominees were announced to judge the Academy for not showing any love to people of color despite plenty of worthy choices.

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From there, celebrities such as Jada Pinkett Smith, Spike Lee and Michael Moore took to social media to announce that they would be boycotting the event. Mainstream media now had a juicy story and an already popular hashtag to go along with it. The Academy quickly announced they would be diversifying their members to combat this ugly issue, but it was too late for Hollywood to avoid skewering. They were now on the hot seat for a history of less than adequate representation. If minorities are not getting enough quality roles in film, how is the Academy supposed to award them? As our finest satirists roast Hollywood, they point out how we’re more likely to see actors who look like the following than esteemed actors like Idris Elba, Michael B. Jordan and Will Smith on stage, who just so happen to be black.

Saturday Night Live

Photo: Saturday Night Live

This issue will continue long after Chris Rock takes the stage to host the Oscars this Sunday, but the fact that it’s come to the forefront can be traced to a simple hashtag. Just 10 years ago people couldn’t be heard like they can now. In 2016, awareness to issues such as the lack of diversity in the workplace cannot be avoided online. Just like #BlackLivesMatter and #FreeKesha, #OscarsSoWhite shows the power of social media when it comes to social awareness campaigns. And in case you were wondering how the creator of Hollywood’s least favorite hashtag is planning on spending her Sunday evening, Reign is encouraging fellow #OscarsSoWhite advocates to watch a film with a diverse cast on Netflix.

Are you planning on boycotting the Academy Awards this weekend because of the controversy? What are some social awareness campaigns that you’ve noticed only because of social media? Are you looking to push your own social awareness campaign via social media? Contact the experts!