THE BLOG
22/02/2015 12:16 GMT | Updated 24/04/2015 06:59 BST

Don't Blame the Oscars for Its Lack of Diversity, Blame Yourselves

It's an industry where diversity means Denzel Washington. It's not news that a disproportionate number of directors are male, resulting in an inevitable plethora of egotistical, navel-gazing, cock-yanking films like Birdman, Boyhood and Whiplash, that feature women as little more than glorified set design.

The 2015 awards season has come under much criticism for its lack of diversity. The Oscar nominees for best picture are so male-centered that two of the eight films - Boyhood and Birdman - actually cite men in their titles. An image featuring all the nominees for best and best supporting actors and actresses is a dazzling collage of white faces. The omission of a tribute to Bob Hoskins at the BAFTA's came under fire from various voices in the media, while the lone voice of Jack O'Connell stood out against the cut glass accents of his British peers.

But blaming the Oscars or the BAFTAs for these shortcomings is like planting a lemon tree, and then blaming it for sprouting only lemons. By the time it gets to awards season, the damage has been done.

The film industry is continually under fire for its lack of diversity, and this criticism is not misplaced. It's an industry where diversity means Denzel Washington. It's not news that a disproportionate number of directors are male, resulting in an inevitable plethora of egotistical, navel-gazing, cock-yanking films like Birdman, Boyhood and Whiplash, that feature women as little more than glorified set design. Or gratuitously over-sexed lesbian fantasies like Blue is the Warmest Colour, or The Duke of Burgundy.

But the problem is much broader. As a result of our staunchly patriarchal past, our history is littered with men; biopics about Martin Luther King, Alan Turing, and Stephen Hawking are testament to this. Because the creative industries are notoriously underfunded and underpaid, it is unsurprising that public schoolboys, with their long affinity for parents' pocket money, rise to the top.

In a society where race relations are increasingly fraught, it's no wonder that majority-white audiences fail to empathise with non-white characters. The media frenzy around Islamic extremism means that the only Muslims we are used to seeing on our screens are terrorists. Why on earth, then, would an actor of Pakistani descent be cast as a lead in a film about anything other than terrorism - Riz Ahmed in Four Lions, Road to Guantanamo, or The Reluctant Fundamentalist, anyone?

Why can't Riz be a Christian Grey, or an Ethan Hunt, or the Incredible Hulk? And never mind Idris Elba, but in a world where equal pay for equal work is a battle that's been fought and won, why on earth can't Gemma Arterton be the next 007, supported by Eddie Redmayne as a seductive tight-knickered Bondboy?

Ultimately the responsibility lies with us as punters to broaden our imaginations. By imbibing stereotype after stereotype, we have essentially reinforced stereotypes as some kind of reality. The only way to break this is to challenge social conceptions. To stop dressing little girls up in pink frocks and hand them science kits instead. To protest, loudly and vociferously when police shoot young black men with impunity. To vote against political candidates with borderline racist views, and to support welfare and arts funding across the board.

Only once we demand that our society is fair and equal, will our screens reflect this change.