The curtains are finally closed on Oscars 2016 after what was a controversial year for the biggest award show on television. With the performances complete and the golden statues distributed, let’s recap how the Academy handled themselves amid a very public crisis.
The controversy started immediately after the Academy announced the 2016 nominees in which not one person of color was nominated for one of the 20 spots within the Actor category–for the second year in a row. Director Spike Lee reacted by calling for a boycott of the award show and was immediately joined by notable actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. A deluge of media attention highlighting the historical lack of diversity not just in casting, but within the makeup of the Academy and Hollywood in general.
Point blank, Hollywood should reflect a greater variety of cultural experience and award shows should better celebrate the talented diverse players in the industry.
How did the Academy react?
Days after the boycott headlines, they announced a restructuring of the Academy membership, and in doing so, recognized that there is an issue and presented a possible solution moving forward. Always an important rule of crisis communication: Address the problem lest you endure endless headlines in your silence.
Then, it came down to the show itself. Would they address the nomination controversy or would they avoid the topic and focus on the usual glitter and glitz that surrounds Hollywood’s big night?
The Academy followed crisis communication rule number one: Respond with a definitive message. With the help and humor of Chris Rock, the 2016 Oscars put a spotlight- pun intended- on the lack of opportunity for diversity in Hollywood. In his opening monologue, he recapped the media fall out and called on Hollywood players- producers, casting directors and writers alike- to give equal opportunity to people of color in the film industry. Throughout the evening, Rock continued to highlight the diversity issue with multiple sketches and then ultimately, ending the evening with his pronouncement that black lives matter.
Let’s be clear. The Award show wasn’t without any bumps in the road but the Academy made a strategic move to recognize the problem and use a credible validator to draw attention in a positive way. Overall, they deserve at least a nomination for crisis communication recovery.