Mixer: Hollywood’s diversity problem

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friday mixer bannerThis Sunday, hundreds of millions of people around the world will gather at their sets to watch stars walk the red carpet, and then award each other with golden trophies.

It’s an annual tradition, but one thing you won’t see this year is a lot of diversity. In fact, the last time there were this few Oscar nominees of color was in 1998.

The Washington Post even had an article showing that Congress is more diverse than Hollywood.

And that has civil rights groups and even lawmakers calling for some changes in how the Oscar nominees are selected, and how movies are cast.

Joe Mathews is California columnist for Zocalo Public Square, an online ideas exchange that publishes daily, and Mandalit del Barco is an NPR reporter who covers entertainment and Hollywood, based in Culver City. Both joined us for this week’s Friday Mixer.

Part of the problem, as I understand, is that the Oscar voters tend to be overwhelmingly white, male, and older in age. And those folks keep their voting jobs for years and years.

It’s certainly not a new issue for Hollywood. But the whiteness of this year’s Oscars have raised the issue again. And to be sure, civil rights groups are planning a protest for Sunday. The lack of diversity has even become a trending topic on Twitter, with the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.

Earlier this week, Congressman Tony Cardenas entered the debate with a letter to Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs. In the letter, Cardenas lamented the fact that “such a revered American institution fail[s] to fully reflect our nation.” So, what do we do about this? It’s easy to point fingers, but how do we change Hollywood to make it more reflective of our country’s diversity?

On the bright side, we are seeing more diversity on TV, with shows like “Orange is the New Black,” “Empire,” “Blackish” and “Fresh off the Boat.”

Which leads to the question: are TV and the web the answer to Hollywood’s diversity problem?