Home Films As SCOTUS Tackles Affirmative Action, The Motion Picture Academy Should Watch – Deadline

As SCOTUS Tackles Affirmative Action, The Motion Picture Academy Should Watch – Deadline


Those who run the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences may want to keep an eye — just one eye, not two, but a sharp eye nonetheless — on the United States Supreme Court as the court deliberates on the matter. future of affirmative action in college admissions.

The court, as has been widely noted, will hear oral arguments in two parallel cases – one against the private Harvard University, the other against the public University of North Carolina – on October 31. It should then rule next year.

What SCOTUS decides on academic affirmative action appears to have little direct legal bearing on the Film Academy and the race, gender and disability-based inclusion standards it is about to impose. in the race for the Best Picture Oscars starting with the 2024 ceremony. After all, educational institutions are governed by a wide range of specific state and federal laws and court precedents, and movies, even when they are overseen by a nudgy non-profit, are still relatively free of such regulation.

But that doesn’t mean the Academy and the film industry as a whole won’t be affected by the upcoming debate and potential rulings on racial preference. As we have learned from recent rulings on abortion and gun rights, Supreme Court action can quickly ignite a cultural storm. And in the current case, any sweeping court ruling against race-based standards – one specific complaint is that the preference for some black students with lower college credentials has resulted in discrimination against some Asian Americans with more strong – would surely drag the Academy’s aggressive diversity program into the noisy maelstrom.

It so happens that for the past few years, AMPAS has behaved less as a complement to industry than as a contemporary and socially responsible university. Admission, once based on merit and a semi-corrupt matching system (similar to old-school “legacy” admissions), is now overtly based on a holistic, university-like approach that weighs achievement alongside critical factors. ‘identify. The mix is ​​meant to produce a membership, a film community, and film content, which is somehow more diverse than in the past.

So industry reputation is no longer something you grab by the throat – achieved through wit, cunning, connections, unfettered ambition and, at times, talent. Rather, one is granted status, based in part on identity, by the Academy and its outreach programs, and by associated and similarly oriented mechanisms in corporations, guilds, film schools, festivals, etc.

Success matters. But, as with many contemporary college admissions, it is just one consideration in a basket of considerations.

Additionally, when it comes to the Best Picture race, Movieland’s inclusion will now be codified by an elaborate set of standards that require the producers of hundreds of films to file reams of confidential information about race, orientation gender and disability status of the cast and crew. These standards are even peppered with numerical quotas, which have long been prohibited in college admissions: at least 30% of actors in supporting roles, for example, or six crew members at a certain level, or 30 % of the entire crew should come from specified underrepresented groups.

Once the standards are fully implemented, challenges are inevitable. In any limited field, of course, admitting some means excluding others, just as qualified Asian Americans say they are barred from universities, or as the Jewish presence at Harvard was cut in half in ten years under ‘holistic’ policies that complemented merit with ‘character’. and “fitness” requirements after 1925.

Already last April, in a little-noticed foray, William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, had written to then-Academy President David Rubin, demanding to know why “the religion – one of the original categories cited in the 1964 Civil Rights Act – was not mentioned” in the inclusion code.

“Why, if the Academy adopts standards for inclusion, has it excluded religion as one of its demographic standards? Donohue asked.

It’s an interesting question, just one of many.

And if racial and gender quotas are ultimately good for movies, I really don’t know.

But it is certain – as much as anything can be in these uncertain times – that SCOTUS racial preference cases are worth watching. They will spark angry public debate, online and on the cable TV circuit. And the Oscars are a good bet to find yourself in the middle.