The biggest movie star in the world has come out against the Oscars.
On Tuesday, George Clooney — A-list actor-director, and charming arm candy to human rights lawyer Amal Clooney (née Alamuddin) — penned an op-ed in Variety scolding the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for only nominating white actors for the second straight year.
"I think that African Americans have a real fair point that the industry isn’t representing them well enough," Clooney wrote. "There should be 20 or 30 or 40 films of the quality that people would consider for the Oscars. By the way, we’re talking about African Americans. For Hispanics, it’s even worse. We need to get better at this. We used to be better at it."
Clooney isn't the first person to speak out about the Oscars' lack of diversity. Actress Jada Pinkett Smith and director Spike Lee have voiced their anger and displeasure with the nominations, and both have declared that they won't be attending the awards ceremony on February 28. And Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs has voiced her frustration with the nominations.
But Clooney has more star power than both Lee and Pinkett Smith — his résumé is peppered with Oscar and Golden Globe wins and nominations; he's been part of hugely successful film franchises; he's been voted by Time as one of the most influential people in the world; and he's even been forgiven for ruining Batman.
What Clooney says matters.
But Clooney is also part of the problem he's speaking out against.
Clooney is a director; he has the power to directly influence the number of roles available to black and Hispanic actors and actresses by the stories he tells. And in his op-ed, he writes, "I don’t think it’s a problem of who you’re picking as much as it is: How many options are available to minorities in film, particularly in quality films?"
Granted, two of those movies are based on nonfiction stories. And perhaps Clooney himself isn't comfortable telling nonwhite narratives. But if he wanted to, he could easily use his Hollywood status and influence to help young, diverse talent get their breaks.
This doesn't invalidate anything Clooney is saying; his statement is an important one that we should all take to heart. But the disconnect between his words and his (lack of) actions illustrates that diversity isn't a game of bad guys and good guys. And diversity isn't won in letters, feelings, or statements. It requires an effort — even from its biggest allies.