How has Hollywood changed since the Lily White Oscars of 2016?

The 2016 Oscars will forever be seared into film lovers minds as the year that people of colour called the Oscars out for neglecting to recognise them – it was a courageous step that sparked widespread outcry; but has anything been done to act on it?

Dubbed the ‘Lily White’ Oscars because the vast majority of actors and actresses nominated where white, more diversity was demanded. Change did come, but maybe not in the form that people were expecting.

The issue of diversity in film has run parallel to the Black Lives Matter campaign. Both have played a big part in forcing change in society, including black comedian Kevin Hart being announced as the next host of the Oscars (before he was removed due to past homophobic comments) and Alicia Keys hosting the Grammys, however there remains a persistent gap in the nominations tables. In 2017, Casey Affleck won the Best Actor award but was only up against one other black male and Emma Stone won the Best Actress award that same year, also only up against one other black woman. Then in 2018, 2 years after a light was shone on the lack of diversity, two black men were nominated for Best Actor when Gary Oldman took the award, but there were no black women up  against Frances McDormand at all. But stand out movies of the last 2-3 years have featured black actors – Detroit, Widows, Fences, Hidden Figures and Moonlight are all recognisably distinguished and deeply meaningful films featuring people of colour. So they’re making the movies that should be prime Oscars bait, but still not winning the awards. This is slightly fishy, and yet the water muddies further because this is not a singular issue.



Infographic by Jade du Preez for EN4News


The struggle that people of colour face has unlocked a whole new world of strife that has widely been overlooked. Other ethnicities were struggling to see themselves on screens, in particular the Asian community. But they faced white washing as actresses like Scarlett Johansson played an originally Asian character in Ghost In The Shell, but because of our new worldly views, she was slammed for her choice in role. Sandra Oh os the only Asian woman in history to win two Golden Globes after her 2019 win for TV series Killing Eve – a feat that she topped off by thanking her parents on stage and telling them in Korean how much she loves them. A strong sentiment for any Asian youngsters with a keen interest in the performing arts, but her trailblazing didn’t stop there. She was the first Asian woman nominee for Best Actress in a Drama Series, and she also hosted the whole night. What a year it’s been for her! And with huge films like Crazy Rich Asians giving an enticing glimpse of Asian culture creating an appetite for more – where has the Lily White Oscars of 2016 left us?

If anything it’s created a safe space for people of colour to thrive and be recognised, and opened the door to other issues like white washing and cultural neglect. Where it has actually solved the problem for black people is another question and far harder to answer. It is very possible that people of colour will soon be winning left, right and centre, clearly they are taking the projects that should get them there but whether they will physically win the awards remains to be seen. They are being represented and given more fantastic roles than ever but the nominations and trophies on mantelpieces just doesn’t seem to be happening. And the issue of Asian representation seems to be moving so much faster – with Sandra Oh kicking butt and Crazy Rich Asians stars Henry Golding and Constance Wu becoming household names – we can only hope that the Lily White Oscars has begin put an end to racial exclusion and is putting a true talent at the forefront of the arts.


  1. […] Want more film chat? Listen to Liam talk about Scotland’s top flicks, read our Bohemian Rhapsody review, or read Jade’s Oscars article mentioned in the podcast. […]

  2. […] Read another EN4 News Oscars article here. […]

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