It’s not that 2024 will usher in a role-reversed reboot of the bad old days, when white-passing actress Merle Oberon pretended her own grandmother was a servant in her household to hide the truth about her heritage from racist Hollywood; it’s more that the Academy doesn’t seem to have really thought through the implications of its own guidelines. Imagine the arguments over whether Jews count as underrepresented, and if not, why. Imagine actors whipping out their 23andMe results to prove their nonwhite status. Imagine the bewildered Academy trying to nominate a Best Actor and Best Actress from a sea of young celebs who’ve all adopted nonbinary identities and they/them pronouns in order to help check the LGBT box for their films’ Best Picture nod.
All this would be happening against a backdrop of little or no change to the actual slate of Best Picture nominees, which will continue as always to be dominated by prestige pictures from major studios with the occasional, diversity-compliant indie darling (such as Moonlight) in the mix. The new standards will do nothing to resolve the fierce and ongoing debates about representation and racism in Hollywood; movies like Green Book or The Help, which activists hated, would be considered diversity success stories under the new rules. If this is the Academy’s best play for relevance and moral authority in a rapidly shifting entertainment landscape, it’s no wonder that nobody bothers to watch the Oscars anymore.