#BlackHistoryMonth | Oscars Still So White

The Background

When the Golden Globe nominations came out, I was talking with Luke Stanke on Slack and I made some comment lamenting how this year’s Oscars were still going to be So White. If you’ve been living under a rock for the past 5 years or so and don’t understand my reference to the Oscars still being So White, in recent years there has been an increased effort to make sure that the efforts and accomplishments of non-white actors and actresses, specifically Black actors and actresses, are recognized in a similar manner to those of their white counterparts.

In 2015, April Reign created the Twitter hashtag #OscarsSoWhite in an effort to highlight the lack of diversity at the Academy Awards, hence the title of our viz. The lack of diverse nominations in 2015 was an issue, and it’s an issue again this year with only one Black actor/actress being nominated (Erivo for Harriet). Because of the blatant lack of Black and brown nominees for this year’s Oscars, Luke and I decided to create a viz calling attention to this issue, especially with it being #BlackHistoryMonth.

The Viz

At first glance, this viz doesn’t appear to be a Stanke creation. There are no LOD’s combined with nested table calcs and parameter actions that make you need pop a couple of Advil to relieve your headache. Admittedly, it’s not technical. That wasn’t our intention. This visualization is not meant to inform CFO’s of their profit margins, it’s meant to highlight a social issue and make a statement using viewer’s perception, not fine tuned KPIs.

Sometimes simplicity can send a message that technicality cannot. In this case, the simplicity helped send the message we wanted to send: the Oscars have been and still are VERY WHITE.

I understand there is a larger discussion happening out there about the merits of data visualization versus data art and all the styles in between. I’m not exactly sure what category this viz falls into, but I’m not sure that is matters all too much. In the same way that I’m not sure what category of data viz this is, I don’t know if a viz with more specific metrics about the lack of diversity would tell a more compelling story.

I could tell you that even though Black women make up only 7% of the population, they won 40% of the awards for Best Supporting Actress in the last decade. But does that tell the overarching story of the Oscars and their lack of diversity? Absolutely not. By displaying the data in this way we have allowed viewers to see the Oscar’s diversity issue from a 30,000 foot view. Each viewer can make his or her assumptions or insights about the data. No predefined metric is there to tell you what to think or how to think about it. I know, very free thinking for normally very straight forward thinking guy. Yes, yes it is.

In Tableau

We used packed bubbles charts. *crickets*

Yes, we used packed bubbles charts, why not!? We’re already breaking all the other rules of data viz, might as well used packed bubble charts while we’re at it.

There’s really nothing technically challenging about the way we did the packed bubbles, but the timeline in the middle took some Stanke-fying tile floating to accomplish.

With the timeline above we then created the bubbles to layer over the timeline to create a unique timeline view. See how we duplicated the spacing with the bubbles to match the timeline above.

The Take Away

While there has been an increase in Black actors and actresses being nominated during the last decade, there were actually more Black winners during the 2000’s than during the 2010’s. In the 2000’s all but one of the winners (Halle Berrie) were men, but during the 2010’s all but one of the winners (Mahershala Ali) were women.

While this viz is just about the nominees and winners, the issues of diversity in cinema reaches far deeper than just what happens on awards night. There are structural issues facing Black and brown actors/actresses from the way movies are financed in Hollywood to the accessibility of big time drama and theater schools that help develop future actors and actresses.

But Spencer, I’m not a movie financier or a hiring manager on a movie set, what can I do?

Great question. In order for change to occur, you must first understand an issue exists. To understand and internalize why/how things are an issue, conversations must be had. The point of visualizations like this are to help spark conversation and curiosity about social issues that will help bring about understanding, and eventually, change. More importantly, the issues that face Black actresses in Hollywood aren’t issues that just affect the rich and famous, they are mostly likely affecting your workplace, neighborhood, or city.

Thanks for reading! Please feel free to email me at spencer.baucke@gmail if you have any comments, feedback, or suggestions.

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