Sunday night I hosted my 13th annual Oscars party, and a group of people slightly too large for my apartment gathered in my living room to watch the show. We had our normal foods, Revenachos, Mad Snax: Veggie Road, The Cheese Danish Girl, and a Bridge of Pies. We had a spotlight on some cheese and crackers, and a big slow cooker full of The Big Short Ribs. And even though I don’t drink personally, right up next to Drink Wars: The Carb Onations we had some Inside Stout. It was a good party, with good friends and good food. But then the show began, Chris Rock walked onstage, and we were suddenly reminded that underneath all of the glamour and trappings of fame and celebrity, the world has some rather large problems to solve.
Why were no minorities nominated in the acting categories? It certainly wasn’t because there were no great performances. Was it racism? Maybe the nominated people really did just give the best performances! Of course, “better” is such a subjective word. Are we more drawn to the people who are the most like us? Would an academy of all African-American members vote for primarily African-American nominees? Would an Asian academy vote for Asians first, even if accidentally and in the backs of their minds? And could an Asian academy vote for Asians if no Asians are given lead roles in films?
There are two suggested course corrections for this problem of under-representation in the Oscars. One is that we need to hire more minority actors, give them more chances to prove themselves, and when the juiciest parts go to a broader crew, we will start to see more of those actors show up on Oscar night. If they aren’t running, how can we vote for them, right?
But from the other side of the issue, it’s possible that the problems do not rest solely on the candidates, but on the voters. The Academy is made up of old white dudes! This is what we hear lamented in times like these. Of course old white dudes are going to vote for old white dudes! Let’s get some younger people in there! Let’s get some minorities! Let’s get more women! And so the academy, having little control as a body over who is cast in movies, took some steps to solve the issue that they did have control over. They introduced a new rule designed to shake up their membership. They said that if you hadn’t actually worked in the industry for a certain period of time, you were no longer eligible to vote. Boy, did that cheese some people off. And yet, if you don’t participate, why should you be allowed to, well, participate?
Today is Super Tuesday. Millions of Americans are going out to the polls to choose candidates for president, many of whom they are not excited about. The candidates are all bad, or all crazy, or all evil, or all trying to break into my house to steal my phone. You’ve heard these complaints. And do you know what? There’s nothing you can do about that. Well, almost nothing. You could get involved in local politics, work your way up through the system, and get yourself into a place where you do have some control, but you probably can’t do that by this afternoon. So no, you have no control today over who is running. But you do have some control over who is voting. They say that when more people vote, when younger people vote, when we all get out there and exercise our right and duty, that democracy is improved. We need more reasonable people out there voting. We even need some unreasonable people out there voting. It doesn’t matter if you hate everyone, or are only casting a vote out of spite because Marco Rubio broke up with you publicly at a 7th grade dance, embarrassing you in front of the whole school. You still need to get out there and do it. Because if we have learned anything from the Oscars, it’s that who is voting is as important as who is running.