Rocked by #OscarsSoWhite controversy, Academy changes rules its rules.

When Saturday Night Live skewers you, you know you’ve got a serious problem.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is desperately trying to manage the fallout from this year’s Oscar nominations – where no people of colour were nominated for acting awards.

The furore has led to big changes to the way the Academy determines membership, and ultimately who votes for the awards.

The complete lack of racial diversity among nominees for the acting awards drew fire from high profile actors and directors, and led to the revival of 2015’s Oscar’s hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.

And on Saturday, the comedy juggernaut weighed in, with a biting and hilarious critique of the issue.

Watch Saturday Night Live’s take on #OscarsSoWhite: (Post continues after video.)

On Friday the Academy announced it was moving to tackle the problem, saying new rules for membership would help increase diversity among the 6000-strong voting bloc of Hollywood heavyweights.

“The Board’s goal is to commit to doubling the number of women and diverse members of the Academy by 2020,” the Academy said, announcing the changes.

“The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up,” Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs said.

“These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition.”

The changes will move Academy membership to 10-year cycles, with lifetime membership only extended to Oscar winners and those who have sustained their 10-year membership for three cycles.


It is a move that has been welcomed by some, but panned by others as Hollywood splits over the question of whether the Academy has a diversity problem or not.

Spike Lee, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith have all decided to boycott this year’s ceremony, while other stars including Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo have voiced support for change.

Charlotte Rampling had to apologise after saying complaints about the lack of diversity at the Oscars were “racist to white people”, while former Clueless star Stacey Dash said she thought the whole debate was “ludicrous”.

Julie Delpy said it was harder to be a woman in Hollywood than Africa American, but has also since apologised.

And on Sunday The Hollywood Reporter published an “open letter” from director Milton Justice – an Academy member and Oscar winner – panning the changes.

“What bothers me most is how insulting this is to black people,” Justice (not a black person) writes.

“My question is: if there were more black actors in the Academy… Would it have assured more black nominees this year? Do black people only vote for black people?”

For some the membership of the Academy, and who votes for the Oscars is a secondary issue to the one of visibility and diversity in film more broadly.

Steve McQueen, director of Oscar winner 12 Years a Slave, says Hollywood needs to change the way it casts films, and commission more projects from diverse filmmakers.

“One could talk about percentages of certain people who are Academy members and the demographics and so forth, but the real issue is movies being made,” he told Variety.

“Decisions being made by heads of studios, TV companies and cable companies about what is and is not being made. That is the start. That is the root of the problem.”

Despite calls for Oscars host Chris Rock to boycott the ceremony, the comedian has confirmed he will be hosting on February 28.

He has reportedly junked the material already written for the show and is in the process of re-writing it to incorporate #OscarsSoWhite.

The changes to membership will not affect voting for winners in this year’s awards, but will be rolled out afterwards.