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THE ACADEMY AWARD'S PRIVATE CLUB

Posted by Lynne Martin on Wednesday, 20 February 2013

For years I've had my suspicions, but ever since THE ARTIST, a black and white silent film was chosen as Best Picture Of The Year in 2012, I have been convinced that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) was out of touch with the general viewing public.

As a movie critic and fiction writer, the Oscars are always a hot topic of conversation, and after polling my family and friends, I realized that less than 5% had even previewed THE ARTIST and the remaining 95% had little or no intention of ever seeing the winning picture. I further realized that many moviegoers were not even aware of who chose the winner of the Oscar statuettes...so here is a brief rundown:

The Academy was established in 1927 by Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM Studios, and ever since
that very day it has remained a somewhat private and rather exclusive club. According to a Feb/2012 study by the L.A. Times in a sampling of 5,000 of the 5,765 voting members, we now have a profile of the Academy members who actually chose our award winners.

1.    94% are white

2.    77% are male

3.    14% are under the age of 50

4.    Median age is 62

5.    33% of members are previous winners or nominees of Academy Awards themselves

6.    Membership in the Academy is by invitation only

7.    Memberships do not expire

8.    Academy does not disclose its full membership

Have you ever seen a profile this exclusive in modern times from a supposed group of enlightened artists and industry professionals? Shouldn't a group who supposedly influence such a large percentage of our entertainment dollars be bettered represented by a more accurate cross-section of society as a whole? Of course the answer is yes.

Maybe this profile is to be expected when we continue to honor and revere a group of older white men privately inviting handpicked potential members to follow in their footsteps?  The perpetuation of idealisms that have been intentionally cultivated for the last 86 years is to be anticipated.

This Sunday, I will still be watching the Academy Awards, cheering and subsequently shaking
my head at what I'm sure will be some questionable choices. Armed with the knowledge that the average Academy voting member does not represent me might help explain some of what I'm sure will be a debatable list of winners and losers. And from this day forward, whenever I pull out my wallet, the title of Academy Award Nominee or Academy Award Winner will no longer carry nearly the same weight as it did before.

Lynne Martin    www.lynnemartinbooks.com

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