Almost any news story on the Academy Awards in the last year has been focused on one thing: #OscarsSoWhite. After last year’s much-derided nominees list (where all 20 nominated actors were white for the second year in a row), the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences pledged radical action. Members who had been dormant in the film industry were demoted to non-voting emeritus status, while Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs vowed to transform the makeup of incoming voters. That’s finally happening, and the recently announced new class is encouragingly diverse—even if the numbers only underscore the enormity of what Isaacs has to overcome.
The list of industry luminaries invited to join AMPAS is 683 names long (more than double the size of 2015’s class) out of 7,789 total members. Forty-six percent of new members are women, which will bump the overall female demographic from 25 to 27 percent. Forty-one percent are people of color, increasing that demographic from 8 to 11 percent. Coupled with the shedding of inactive, mostly older voters, the 2016 class amounts to the closest thing to a sea change for AMPAS—and marks the most significant reorganization of the Academy’s membership in its 90-year existence. As the frequent Oscars critic Mark Harris pointed out, these members will account for nearly 10 percent of next year’s voters. If such efforts continues, the Oscars could begin to feel substantially different and signal to the movie industry at large that it’s time to take similar, sweeping action.