Academy Member Stephen King Comments On the 2020 Oscar Nominations ‘Diversity Issue’

There is always plenty of controversy surrounding the Oscar nominations each year. And 2020 is no different. Writer Stephen King has already found himself at the center of a conversation about the lack of diversity amongst the nominees. Here’s what happened, and the other famous person he upset.

Who is Stephen King?

Stephen King
Stephen King | Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images

The name Stephen King is synonymous with the horror genre at this point. His first published novel, Carrie, came out in 1973, and since then, has released classics such as The Shining, Cujo, and It, all of which have been adapted into feature films.

Over the years, more and more of King’s work has been translated to the big and small screens. Because of this, he has a very long list of producer and story by credits in Hollywood. King has also transitioned into work on original movie and TV content in recent years.

He votes as a member of the Academy

Because of his status in show business, King was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as a voter years ago. While this is considered common knowledge, what you may not know is that Academy members are sometimes limited as to what they are able to vote on.

According to King, because he’s a writer, he’s only able to nominate in three of the major categories, as they pertain to writing. On Jan 14, 2020, the day after the 2020 Oscar nominations were announced, he entered the conversation about “the diversity issue — as it applies to individual actors and directors.”

The 2020 Oscar nominations

What is King addressing? Namely that there is an abundance of white, male nominees this year, as seems to often be the case. In regards to one category, only a single person of color, Parasite‘s Bong Joon-ho, is up for Best Director, and no women are included, as actor Bette Midler points out.

Additionally, the nominees for Best Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, and Supporting Actress are all very white as well. In fact, there is, once again, just one person of color, Harriet‘s Cynthia Erivo, nominated for an acting award. This is even worse than previous years, showing that we’re moving backward, not forward, in this area.

Ava DuVernay on King’s comments

King concluded his above tweet with a second part, in which he wrote, “…I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.” This take has been perpetuated by many, and seems to insist that there weren’t any other strong contenders in the categories he voted for by women or persons of color.

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay was previously the subject of a similar discussion when her 2014 film, Selma was nominated for Best Picture, but she was not nominated for Best Director. This year, without a horse in the race, she was free to chime in, calling King “someone [she] admire[s]” and his tweet “backward and ignorant.”

The writer later elaborated

A few hours after his original tweets, King reentered the discussion. He added on, writing about how women, people of color, and those who are discriminated against based on sexual orientation or gender are “badly under-represented.” He added, “You can’t win awards if you’re shut out of the game.”

While this is absolutely true, it’s a bit reductive in this instance. There’s no doubt that King could have (and may have) pushed for other acclaimed films, like Hustlers, The Farewell, and Portrait of a Woman on Fire, to receive screenplay and Best Picture nominations. We hope next time his words are reflected in his actions.