The Oscars Are Being Run by Old White Men Again

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

Last night, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (yes, that Academy, which doles out the Oscars every year) board of governors elected a rather unexpected person as the 36th president: an old white man.


In a surprise victory, cinematographer John Bailey, who worked on Ordinary People, Groundhog’s Day, How to Lose A Guy in 10 Days, and most recently How to Be a Latin Lover, overtook his rival, casting director David Rudin. (Laura Dern was also in the mix but declined to run due to scheduling conflicts.) And while this election seems pretty far removed from our day-to-day life, Bailey’s election might indicate that Hollywood is backing away from some of the progressive momentum it has shown in recent years.

The Hollywood Reporter wrote that Bailey’s election was “seen by some as a victory for the more conservative wing of the 54-person board, which feels that the board has become too activist in recent years.”

Bailey is succeeding Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the third woman and first person of color to be elected president of AMPAS. Under her presidency, the Academy began to truly address its embarrassing lack of diversity of all kinds. This year, the group invited a record 774 new members to join, with a focus on increasing representation. It’s a small step in the right direction, but one that nonetheless that no doubt took a lot of effort.

And it looks like that small effort was enough for the AMPAS board of governors. While 74-year-old Bailey has served on the board for far longer than his opponent Rudin, his win is also seen as a reversion to the same old Hollywood, before the youths made all that racket about including minorities in the moving picture shows. As Variety suggests:

But the board may feel it has nothing to prove. A black woman has served as Academy president for four years, Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight” was this year’s best-picture Oscar winner (three years after Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave”), and the Academy has received a lot of attention for its moves to increase diversity throughout the membership and on the board.

Okay guys? Moonlight won and one black woman was in charge for a bit, so racism and sexism are definitely over. Perhaps Bailey will defy expectations and remain steadfast on the diversity issue, but I’m not keeping my hopes up too high.

Isha is a staff reporter who covers pop culture, representation in media, and your new faves.