The outcome of this Sunday’s MTV Movie Awards has the potential to be one of the most significant cultural events of the year, and it has nothing to do with snubs. Americans are not waiting for an underrated actor to finally get the recognition, and getting a “golden popcorn” on your mantle still won’t have the same gravitas as an Oscars statue. But the winners of Sunday’s ceremony could bring a much-needed aspect to the awards circuit: diversity.
After the Academy Awards featured a lack of diversity, many hoped that event would finally be the catalyst that would inspire change in Hollywood at future honoring ceremonies. But many of the other award ceremonies are similarly whitewashed.
Since 2000, only 19.6 percent of Grammy recipients have been artists of color. And the summer’s Tony Awards for theatre aren’t any better. According to Forbes, “the Tonys and the Oscars are almost the same institution when it comes to racial diversity —” since its inception in 1929, 95 percent of all nominees have been white.
But what makes the MTV Movie Awards different are its voters. Instead of an elected body voting on who should win, the decision is left up to the American people. There is a chance that this year, the pool of winners is reflective of the rich diversity of the country. Of course, this is made more difficult by the hand-selected pool of nominees, picked by producers and executives at MTV. Entertainment data site PrettyFamous visualized the racial breakdown of this year’s nominees:
In the case of a person of mixed race, PrettyFamous counted that person in both ethnic categories.
A large portion of the nominees are white (79.5 percent). The next biggest portion of nominees are black or African American (9.4 percent) and Asian (6.9 percent). But compared to the spectrum of Oscars nominees, Sunday’s ceremony will certainly be more colorful.
About 95 percent of Oscars nominees were white, followed by 2 percent Hispanic or Latino and another 2 percent Asian. None of the honorees were black, which was the main focus of the backlash against the ceremony.
But this problem is not necessarily that of those who elect the nominees, but instead can be traced to a larger lack of diversity in Hollywood. Much of the movies produced are written for white, male actors — and when they’re not, like in this year’s fantasy film Gods of Egypt, opportunities for actors of color are often given to their white counterparts anyway.
Americans are 62 percent white, 17 percent Hispanic or Latino and 13 percent black or African American. But in the world of the silver screen, only 9 percent are black, 7 percent are Asian and 4 percent are Hispanic or Latino. The MTV Movie Awards has Hollywood beat by a whopping 10 percent in terms of black or African-American representation. But the ceremony falls short of Hollywood in Asian and Hispanic or Latino representation.
The reality that Americans see at the movie theater is much different than what they see every day. But as the above graph shows, the MTV nominees this year seem to be inching towards a more representative racial makeup. In the case of events such as Oscars and the Grammys, there is little that the general public can do besides voicing their disapproval on social media (#OscarsSoWhite). But now that the ultimate decision is in the control of the people, they have opportunity to challenge the status quo.