Eppler: Yep, the Oscars are still racist

Eppler: Yep, the Oscars are still racist

The AMPAS board announced the addition of a Popular Film category at the Oscars. It couldn't have come at a worse time. 

While the Academy has not revealed the criteria for Popular Film or who will be voting, the general consensus is this is a category created to honor big movies that don't get Best Picture nominations, which is a false premise to begin with (see "Lord of the Rings," "Gladiator," "Avatar" "Mad Max: Fury Road," etc). The big problem with making this move this year is we have a popular superhero movie that is not only deserving of a Best Picture nomination, it may have the support to win.

"Black Panther" is an artistic and cultural milestone - a superhero movie made by black filmmakers dealing with black identity and Afrofuturism. It's all kinds of great - deserving of a Best Picture nomination. So is this really the best time to be adding a separate but equal category?

If "Black Panther" is one of the main considerations for adding this Popular Film category now, there can only be two explanations: 

1. The Academy board doesn't trust its #OscarsSoWhite membership to nominate "Black Panther" for the big prize

2. The Academy doesn't want "Black Panther" or any other superhero movie encroaching on the prestigious Best Picture race

I think the first option is far more likely because that second explanation is, perhaps, overly cynical. But it highlights an ongoing problem with the Academy when it comes to inclusion of work by minority groups. While some may argue this Popular Film category is the "Superhero Movie" or "Star Wars" award, it could also be seen as the "Minority Film" award. Don't you think "Get Out" would have won "Popular Film" last year? If the Academy goes through with this, I suspect "Black Panther" will be cut out of the Best Picture race as a serious contender - if it gets nominated at all.

I get that fans of blockbuster movies want to see these well-liked pictures honored in some way. But adding a Popular Film category is counter-productive. We see evidence of that in the Animated Film category. Voters won't vote for a movie like "Toy Story 3," "Coco" or "Inside Out" for Best Picture because they can award it in Animated Film. So those hoping to see a "Star Wars" or "Avengers" movie crowned with a Best Picture nomination - or even a win - see those chances greatly diminished with a Popular Film category. 

The addition of Popular Film will work to further marginalize minority filmmakers just as they were starting to make some significant progress in the Oscars. This award will never be taken as seriously as Best Picture. It's the kiddie table award. It's the Miss Congeniality prize. It's a pandering pat on the head. 

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