Stephen King, whose name will flood our streamers and cinemas forevermore, drew the ire of many earlier this month when he fired off a poorly-worded tweet about how diversity isn’t a factor for him when voting in the Academy Awards.
“As a writer, I am allowed to nominate in just 3 categories: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Screenplay,” King wrote on January 14. “For me, the diversity issue—as it applies to individual actors and directors, anyway—did not come up. That said I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.”
It was an incredibly tone-deaf tweet in light of the striking lack of diversity on display in this year’s nominees. And of the many people who decried King’s perceived implication that diversity can be glided over in today’s climate was When They See Us director Ava DuVernay. “When you wake up, meditate, stretch, reach for your phone to check on the world and see a tweet from someone you admire that is so backward and ignorant you want to go back to bed,” she tweeted in response.
King sought to clarify his comments in follow-up tweets. “The most important thing we can do as artists and creative people is make sure everyone has the same fair shot, regardless of sex, color, or orientation. Right now such people are badly under-represented, and not only in the arts,” he wrote. “You can’t win awards if you’re shut out of the game.”
He elaborates on this in a new op-ed in The Washington Post, in which he declares that the Oscars “are still rigged in favor of white people.” In a nod to his offending tweets, he says he stands by his assertion that “judgments of creative excellence should be blind,” but acknowledges that that could only be “the case in a perfect world, one where the game isn’t rigged in favor of the white folks.”
“Creative excellence comes from every walk, color, creed, gender and sexual orientation,” he continues, “and it’s made richer and bolder and more exciting by diversity, but it’s defined by being excellent. Judging anyone’s work by any other standard is insulting and—worse—it undermines those hard-won moments when excellence from a diverse source is rewarded (against, it seems, all the odds) by leaving such recognition vulnerable to being dismissed as politically correct.”
The real issue, he says, is that the Academy’s voting body remains overwhelmingly white and male, citing figures that put women at 32% of total voters and minority members at just 16%.
“Voters are supposed to look at all films in serious contention. This year, that would be about 60,” he writes. “There’s no way of checking how many voters actually do, because viewing is on the honor system. How many of the older, whiter contingent actually saw Harriet, about Harriet Tubman, or The Last Black Man in San Francisco? Just asking the question. If they did see all the films, were they moved by what they saw? Did they feel the catharsis that’s the basis of all that artists aspire to? Did they understand?”
Read it in full here.