Oscars’ woke quota will backfire on Hollywood spectacularly

According to last February’s ratings, 93 percent of us are already not watching the Academy Awards. Now Oscar is wondering: How do I whittle down that last seven percent? Answer: woke quotas.

That thunk you heard coming out of La-La-Land Tuesday was the sound of the Academy grandly planting its face in the sidewalk by announcing it was formally rejecting the pursuit of artistic quality in favor of a byzantine quota system.

Starting with 2024 films, your project can’t even be considered for a Best Picture Oscar unless it meets a set of diversity targets of the kind you’d normally expect to see credited to the Oberlin Freshperson Student Social-Justice Initiative & Sustainable Vegan Hemp Co-Operative. Good news, whoever staged that Rob-Lowe-meets-Snow-White dance number: you’re now the second-most-embarrassing thing ever associated with the Academy Awards.

To boil down the long, complicated new rules: to be eligible for best picture, a film has to check two out of four boxes. One is to represent glorious 21st-century American diversity in its casting (a problem if your movie is set in, say, pretty much any other time and place), another is to have two minorities or women as heads of departments, another is affirmative action in the marketing and distribution departments.

The easiest criterion to meet is apprenticeships for members of underrepresented groups, meaning anyone but straight white non-handicapped males. Welcome to low-paid internships, people of color! I’m sure Hollywood race relations will feel totally chill five years from now, when every java boy and latte girl serving America’s showbiz aristocracy is black. Soon the last surviving copy of “Gone with the Wind” will be locked in a vault accessible only to scholars of racism, but you’ll be able to see Tara reenacted in Burbank and Culver City.

It seems obvious that directors of the kind who make Oscar contenders are not going to dump, say, Oscar-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins or Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer because they’re white dudes, and take on people they’ve never worked with before. The next time Christopher Nolan makes a film like “Dunkirk,” he isn’t going to stick Kevin Hart and Awkwafina in it.

The “visibility” will be largely invisible, behind the scenes. Maybe that’ll give underrepresented types a foothold in the industry, but I’m skeptical. Hollywood has always operated as a tightly-guarded, shamelessly nepotistic club. (Ever wonder why the weedy, milquetoast character actor Bob Balaban has a career? Maybe it’s because uncle Barney ran Paramount Pictures for 30 years.) I suspect the outsiders “welcomed” into the club as mandatory diversity hires won’t feel particularly welcome. The feeling will be like “Get Out” among people who swear “Get Out” is the most meaningful cinematic experience they’ve ever had.

I’m exaggerating a bit, though: look at the fine print and you’ll discover the new diversity standards are fairly loose — lots of studio execs are probably saying to themselves, “Phew, Asians and women qualify? I already have a couple of those. And gays? Find me someone around here who isn’t!”

Yet since we know that the real controversy revolves around black representation, what the Academy announced this week isn’t going to mollify its critics for long. People who fancy themselves America’s most daring creative leaders will soon be cringing at another hashtag, conceding sin and publicly flogging themselves in the course of announcing yet another round of woke reforms.

The Academy has, however, opened the door to considerations other than merit. Its reputation will suffer accordingly. Nobody would watch the Super Bowl if they suspected a great team was disqualified for reasons other than how well it played.

But the Academy has already done much to woke itself into irrelevance; when it gives top honors to obviously not-great pictures such as “Moonlight,” “The Shape of Water” and “Green Book” it is showing that sending approved socio-political messages comes first. Each year the Oscar ceremony flashes a neon sign reading “BE TOLERANT, YOKELS” at America. We’re supposed to receive this news as a precious gift, to exclaim in wonder, “You hate us! You really, really hate us!” No thanks, say 93 percent of us. Next year it’ll be 94.

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