Frances McDormand was this year's winner of the Best Actress Oscar. She also won in 2018, at which time she showed up on my radar screen because she abused her stardom by engaging in political rhetoric. McDormand argued that both cast and crew in all movies ought to be composed of at least 50 percent women and minorities. Her liberal outburst seemed far-fetched then but three years later, thanks to the ascendency of identity politics, it turns out to have been prophetic.
McDormand's suggestion has been adopted by the people who award the Oscars. Responding to accusations that the Oscars were too white, the Motion Picture Academy has ruled that effective next year all films must submit a confidential Academy inclusion standards form to be considered for Best Picture. No movie can qualify for a Best Picture Oscar unless at least one lead actor comes from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group, or at least 30 percent of the cast in secondary roles is drawn from designated groups, or a main storyline centers on an underrepresented identity group.
In addition, 30 percent of the film's crew must be from underrepresented groups and at least two of a list of creative leadership positions and department heads — casting director, cinematographer, composer, costume designer, director, editor, hairstylist, makeup artist, producer, production designer, set decorator, writer — must also be from designated groups.
Under the new rules, classic Best Picture winners of the past such as "Casablanca," "Gone with the Wind," "Lawrence of Arabia," "Hamlet," "On the Waterfront," "Patton" and "The Sound of Music" would be disqualified. What about a Spike Lee film composed mostly of Blacks? Would that qualify? Or would it be kicked out because it lacked a sufficient percentage of white actors in the cast?
What would remakes look like? Denzel Washington as T.E. Lawrence? Will Smith as Patton? Oprah Winfrey as Maria von Trapp? What about Daniel Day-Lewis as Martin Luther King? That's fine if it accurately represents the director's vision.
But what if it doesn't? McDormand and her liberal cohorts in Hollywood don't give a darn. They would employ coercion against movie producers who do not adhere to their concept of diversity.
What I object to is not merely the contempt for creative freedom by people who work in a creative profession, but the desire to impose their will by fiat. We can't have a cadre of leftists dictating how films are to be made.
If a director wants to remake "Lawrence of Arabia," don't force him to cast 30 percent women ("Laura of Arabia") because it conforms to the Left's political ideology. The U.S. is a country that has always valued merit over entitlement. A motion picture should succeed or fail on its merits.
Calling the new rules a "disgrace to artists everywhere," outspoken Actress Kirstie Alley expressed her indignation. "Can you imagine telling Picasso what had to be in his [expletive] paintings? You people have lost your minds,'' said the former "Cheers" star. ''The new rules to qualify for 'best picture' are dictatorial … anti-artist … Hollywood you're swinging so far left you're bumping into your own [expletive]. I'm opposed to mandated arbitrary percentages relating to hiring human beings in any business."
''Diversity is important,'' said "Real Time" host Bill Maher. ''But it's also important that we don't wind up with artists guided less by a creative vision and more by a to-do list. We are talking about a world where if you want to make the next 'Schindler's List,' the first thing you'll need to do is give a racial breakdown of all your employees. Does anyone see the irony in that? Some of the best movies ever made were by refugees from communist and fascist countries who got out because they didn't like being told what art was acceptable.''
Former Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell correctly observed that the new Oscar rules were the work of Democrats controlling Hollywood and that the Best Picture award is now ''the Most Politically Correct Picture.'' How are moviegoers reacting to the leftist takeover of Hollywood? Theater attendance is already way down from previous years. Americans can view virtually anything on their widescreen televisions without leaving the house.
The best dramatic productions are happening not in movies but rather in television with excellent series such as "Breaking Bad," "Mad Men," "Rome," "Downton Abbey," "Longmire" and many others. The annual Oscar telecast is down from 30 million viewers in 2019 to less than 10 million this year. The new rules could make the Oscars totally obsolete, in which case the effort at increased diversity will have been a waste of time.
Mandated arbitrary percentages seem to be the fashion this year. United Airlines just announced a hiring quota for pilots based on race and sex. United has joined a growing list of woke corporations — Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo, Delta Airlines, Starbucks and Nike, just to name a few — whose managements have succumbed to the new liberal playbook. The main objection to hiring quotas is that they violate basic notions of fairness and meritocracy.
In the case of United Airlines, says conservative author Brigitte Gabriel, "They are literally putting the lives of their customers at risk in the name of being woke." It is not racism to suggest that jobs should be filled from the most qualified applicants, regardless of race or sex. In fact, it used to be known as common sense until the woke crowd got their hands on it.
With its new quota rules, the Motion Picture Academy will make it difficult for creative people to be creative. Movie production will be done by the numbers. ''It's hard not to think the 2024 Best Picture candidates will be chosen for their diversity markers and not their quality,'' Candice Frederick wrote in Elle magazine. Can you imagine Hollywood greats like Frank Capra, Steven Spielberg, Otto Preminger, Martin Scorsese and John Ford conforming to such an arbitrary set of standards? Imagine the junk we can expect Hollywood to produce from now on.
Ed Brodow is a conservative political commentator, negotiation expert, and author of eight books including "Tyranny of the Minority: How the Left is Destroying America" and "Trump's Turn: Winning the New Civil War." He is a former U.S. Marine officer, Fortune 500 sales executive and Hollywood movie actor. Read Ed Brodow's Reports — More Here
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