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4 January 2016, 12:59
They're literally shaking in their boots.
If you've been paying attention to anything for the last couple of years, you will have undoubtedly noticed the rising power of social media. Whether it's reactionary or activism based, social media users have certainly proven the power of a hashtag.
The power of the hashtag is never more apparent than during award season and, as we get closer to the Oscars, the awarding body is said to be fearing a repeat of last year's #OscarsSoWhite trending topic.
#OscarsSoWhite trended last year when the list of nominees for the prestigious award ceremony was seriously lacking diversity. The topic trended for days preceding the ceremony and certainly had a lasting effect on perceptions of the awarding body.
Now, media experts are predicting a repeat of last year's PR disaster.
The LA Times is reporting that "the biggest issue for many voters isn’t about who might be nominated but about the diversity of this year's acting class." The awarding body is now apparently hyper aware of the potential backlash that could come from a repeat of last year. They incurred the wrath of the internet when all of the best actor and best supporting actor nods went to white actors and they're not keen to repeat the ordeal.
But maybe it's not just award ceremonies that the film industry needs to worry about. Maybe they need to worry about that fact that your hashtag could seriously tank their profits.
Film studios are losing money because of your activism
At the tail end of 2015, the seriously problematic Pan offended potential audiences so badly that a petition to stop casting non-POC in POC roles gained nearly 100,000 signatures. This was in response to Rooney Mara playing the role of Native American character, Tiger Lily. Pan flopped at the box office as a result of the negative social media publicity and failed to even earn back its initial budget of $150 million.
A similar reaction to Emma Stone's casting as 1/4 Chinese, 1/4 Hawaiian character, Allison Ng, made sure that Aloha absolutely floundered at the box office.
Aloha director Cameron Crowe apologized, saying "I have heard your words and your disappointment, and I offer you a heart-felt apology to all who felt this was an odd or misguided casting choice," but the damage had already been done.
image via tumblr
Neither of these films were likely to be up for Oscar contention, but they illustrate the growing power of social media backlash. The power of social media to condemn these industry practices certainly has studios shaking in their boots. As movie boycotts become more and more common, studios are feeling the heat at all levels, casting and awarding.
After the Sony hacks, the social media activism, and the controversies of the past year, it's no surprise that Oscar voters are worried about the diversity of the nominees. Especially when you consider how diverse television has become and how much people have begun to prefer the ultra progressive medium of tv as opposed to film.
Whether or you believe that the film industry needs more diversity and should make better casting choices, there is no getting around the fact that social media now has the power to derail any any movie they deem offensive. The Oscar nominations will reflect the degree of diversity in film and it doesn't take much to organise a movie boycott. The film industry should be afraid. Very afraid.