BAFTA So White! Second Major British Awards Show Hit With Diversity Outrage

Joel Ryan
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After a major move to instill more inclusiveness, the BAFTA Awards managed to select nothing but white trophy winners.

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In the span of just as many weeks, a second major British entertainment awards ceremony is coming under fire for a lack of proper diversity in its presentation. The recently held Brit Awards (the British version of our Grammys) were lambasted for not having any female artists nominated for Artist of the Year. Now there is similar outrage with the theatrical awards in that nation.

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) held its annual ceremony this weekend and following the gala, there has been media outrage, as the list of winners took on a notably monochromatic hue. It ended up that all of the people selected in their categories were white.

Of the 45 individuals that were granted a trophy this year, all were considered white. The only two possible exceptions were the pair behind “Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio,” but they are considered “white Hispanics.” The flood of outrage and dismay has been palpable. It is also slightly amusing. This is because the BAFTA management (as evidenced by the group’s Twitter account boasting a lone image of black actor Daniel Kaluuya) set out to avoid this very result.

After the 2020 awards, the BAFTA committee pledged to become more inclusive for POC performers in the industries. Going into this year’s ceremony, it appeared that they had fixed what was perceived to be broken. To the people who occupy themselves with tabulating proper representation, the field of 2023 nominees consisted of 40 percent of the names being people from “approved” minority categories. Yet they all failed to nab the top honor in their respective categories.

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This lack of effective alterations to the awards process echoes the complaints heard just a week earlier at the Brit Awards. The group behind that awards show received all manner of media acclaim last year when it announced that It would be doing away with gendered categories, and simply would be recognizing the qualified names as “artists.” Then this year’s nominations came out and the social experiment exploded in their faces.

It ended up that no female artists were nominated for AOY, and just like that, the crowds who were applauding themselves for being gender-neutral were instantly supremely focused on gender. How you can go from pretending that there should be no focus on gender with recognition to then blasting headlines about the exclusion of a gender defies logic – but that is because all of these preening efforts are bereft of logical thinking.

This is seen in an observation made by one British journalist in the wake of the BAFTA show. He points out that amidst all the complaints, there is no artistic measure being applied.

This is a valid point because it underscores this is not looking at worthiness and that it is simply a case of counting heads and noting skin color — there is no measure of achievement. No name is held as being worthy, they just want the statistics to reflect what they feel is a fair result. Keyword in this: feel. This is not an intellectual exercise; it is simply getting emotional over “not enough,” as nebulous a result as that can be.

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What we are looking at in Britain is the folly of social engineering. The two artistic organizations attempted to manipulate a result for what is, by nature, a subjective measure of art. Sometimes you cannot rationalize what affects you artistically, what moves you in a performance, or what appeals to your sense of humor. 

To say you must laugh at a black comedian, or you are compelled to laud a female director even if you did not appreciate her film is a fool’s errand. As we have seen, this desire to contort the results ends up delivering instead a fractured prism.

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