On February 28, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) will announce the winners of its annual movie awards. Many Americans watch this Academy Awards show as a rite, treating the “The Oscars” as if it were a big deal.
It certainly isn’t immune to controversy.
This year, a cry went up under the banner “#OscarsSoWhite.” Unlike in the recent past, no black actors or directors were nominated in the big categories. Charges of racism flew fast and wild.
AMPAS is a large but private membership organization, and its membership is overwhelmingly white. So one could “explain” the nomination list entirely on racial grounds.
But it’s not as if the organization doesn’t try to be fair: the voting process, for the final awards, is nothing as crude as America’s bizarre system, which combines first-past-the-post vote counting and selection by the Electoral College. AMPAS uses a form of ranked choice voting, instead.
“Since 2009, the Academy has used instant runoff voting to determine the winner of the coveted Best Picture award,” explains Molly Rockett at Oscar Votes 1-2-3.
The Academy has an interest in ensuring that winners at least enjoy majority support, so the selection process measures overall support, not picking the winner merely by a small plurality of first place votes in a crowded field.
Ms. Rockett tells us that the Academy is trying to racially diversify its membership. Maybe that will change something. Or maybe nothing needs to be changed — it’s not as if the Oscar nominees should be selected by racial quota.
But it is worth remembering that the Oscars sport a more rational democracy than the United States.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.