Ever get the feeling that Academy Award voters are completely different people from you? You're probably right.
Movie criticism has always been suspect for the simple reason that what critics seem to prefer is often not in line with what audiences like. A critic or other movie industry professional might love an esoteric Hungarian film about a factory worker's existential crisis, but is it fair for them to declare that movie objectively better than some summer blockbuster audiences flock to? It can start to feel like critics are totally different people from the rest of the film-going public. Alas, as it turns out, that's not so far from the truth.
According to a new study from the Los Angeles Times, Academy Awards voters—those mysterious figures who will be thanked repeatedly on the Oscar stage next Sunday—look nothing like people who actually go to movies in the United States. American moviegoers are mostly young people, ethnically diverse, and—by a slight majority—generally female. Yet of the 5,765 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, a full 94 percent are white and nearly 80 percent are men. Only 14 percent of the voters are younger than 50. If one begins to look at specific branches of the academy, the homogeneity gets even more pronounced: The executives' and writers' branches are both 98 percent white.
In interviews with the Times, some academy voters agreed that diversifying the organization is important. "We absolutely recognize that we need to do a better job," writer-director Phil Alden Robinson told the paper. But then he immediately followed up with an excuse: "If the industry as a whole is not doing a great job in opening up its ranks, it's very hard for us to diversify our membership."
In the meantime, have fun watching the Oscars if you're into that sort of thing. But don't feel too bad if your favorite movie isn't represented. The Academy isn't for you.