Yuh-Jung Youn from Oscar speech

The Need for Cultural Diversity in Mainstream Media

April 25, 2021, Youn Yuh- Jung attended the 93rd Academy Awards. 
As an actress from South Korea, it was an honor because she won the Best Supporting Actress prize as the first South Korean to have ever won. Her performance in the movie Lee Isaac Chung’s “Minari” was spectacular. It was quite a sensational moment especially during increasing occurrences of Asian Hate crimes. Since racism incidents were hitting high levels of number, it was big news worldwide.


Significance of her winning

Last year, was a turning point for Asian creatives. For the first time, there were more wins that went to Asian people than white people. And this year, her wins added more eyes on Asian creatives. With the increased frequency of Asian Hates Crimes in the United States, especially where the Oscar award has held, flying to the US from the safety of her native land might have been a bit nerve wrecking. It was special because it was the first time a South Korean actress has won the Oscar prize. 

The Academy and a lack of diversity?

the Oscar and the Academy was demanded to change

The Academy has created with 9,000 professionals who work in the filming industry in the film industry, give awards to the best movies and performances every year. And why they tend to be criticized for their lack of diversity? If you watch the Netflix series called “Hollywood”, there was the scene of a black actress who was to attend the Emmy Awards and has entered the hall where has a sign, said, “white only”. In the movie industry, historically there has been always the topic of diversity and it is not surprising to be written with race and Oscar awards on the same pages.

In 1940, this year’s Oscar was historically different. The very first black actress had won the prize. In this era, there were still so many “White only” theatres and through the premiere of her own movie, she couldn’t attend. It was the time where racism was in their daily lives in a more clear way. Even she had finally got this prize, the discrimination kept continued. The motion industry can give the chance to minorities to raise their voice but to get the opportunity and to accomplish, it was only the beginning.

How this began to be so difficult

Such award recognition was not only matters because of respect to the minority, equality, and fairness, but because it has the significant power of effect to the industry and politics. Movie Awards made a cultural shift change in the way people behave and think, because the winner has a right to share their voice. This means, for the Academy members, it is a considerable award.

As you already know, Oscar Awards has been seen to have a lack of racial diversity among the nominees. 5 years ago, in 2016, they set all-white nominees. Even there was a hashtag “OscarsSoWhite”  Some reports say they do a poor job of recognizing the work of people who are not “white”. Also when colored actors get nominated, it has tended always to be stereotype roles. It shows us that among the Oscar Award members, there was still some stereotype part to see the actors.

According to the facts, the Academy has given 336 acting Oscars in total, and overall 9% going to people of color. Black actors are the majority of the wins with 19 Oscars. Next, go to Latin actors with 5 awards. Asian actors with 3 awards and Arab actors never won yet. In addition, only 12 women of color have won and black women are receiving the majority of the awards. These are very specific numbers to show us how rare to win the awards as colored actors.

By the Insider analysis, they show the number of nominees and wins by race over the last decade. For white people, 605 people were nominated and 91 people won while 43 black people were nominated and 9 won, Asian nominees were 10 and won 6, Latin nominees were 18 and won 8.

The Change in the Oscar Awards

It has been 5 years since this global news. The Academy has renewed their membership and ready for a fresh start. They also exceeded the number of female members to double. And colored members tripled. This seemed like good progress towards diversity. 

There is a powerful speech that Joaquin Phoenix has given to the public on his best actor speech. And there is a sentence that specifically captured people’s minds. He said, “I think that we send a very clear message to people of color that you’re not welcome here. I think that’s the message that we’re sending to people that have contributed so much to our medium and our industry and in ways that we benefit from.”


In another example, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) has built with 87 international members of a journalist. This year, 2021, it has revealed that there had been no black members for over 20 years. Because of their lack of professional judging sights and diversity, they have pronounced that they will increase the number of black members by 13% from ZERO by next year. Which of course it should have done it a while ago since they claimed their name as “Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

The Asian Hate Crimes and The Academy

when the Asian Hate Crimes was increasing dramatically, people stood up to deserve the truthThis year’s Academy was held while the anti- Asian Hate Crimes were ongoing across the United States attributed to Covid-19 which was first observed in China. At that time, there were numerous physical attacks targeting Asian Americans. For those people, their daily life changed and they lived in fear.  The movie Youn was about one Asian family’s quest to catch the American dream. It can say the best time and worst time to be appealed. But it has given to people such a powerful message to heal the racism attack. Especially when Hollywood rarely represents the Asian community which is the one reason this movie took a big step.

What is actually happening since the pandemic started

An actor who was in the same movie with her, named Steve Yeun, said to Entertainment Weekly. ” We were trying to tell the story of, ‘What’s it like when you wake up and you just are?’ — which is how I wake up” Continued,  “I don’t really wake up being, like, ‘I’m a Korean American person living in a white American world.’ I’m just like: ‘I’m up now. What do I want to eat?’

The population of the United States is filling up with immigrants. Historically, moving there was a big trend. Nowadays, their children are making the society without questioning ” am I really an American” They grew up there and speak the same languages. Even with mixed ethnic populations, there is still discrimination and Anti-Asian Hate Crimes are on the rise everyday. 

Increasing Anti-Asian Hate Crimes

On 16, March in Atlanta, a massive shooting occurred at 3 spas or massage parlors. The man ended up killing 8 people. As 6 of the victims were Asian women, the audience has suspected that the motivation of this crime came from Asian discrimination. The suspect was 21 years old man who said he was motivated by a sexual addiction that was at odds with his religious beliefs. After the shooting, he was charged with four counts of murders in Atlanta. However, he has not charged with a hate crime as a part of racism.

Sociologist Nancy Wang Yuen addressed this incident as “part of a nationwide pattern of Asians being disproportionately targeted in hate incidents” and claimed that this took place in the context of an “intersection of racism and sexism”. 

More or less,  there have been so many reports. 

Late last year, the United Nations addressed the report that detailed “an alarming level” of racially motivated violence and other hate incidents against Asian Americans. The advocacy group of Stop AAPI said they have received more than 2,800 reports of hate incidents directed at Asian Americans across the U.S. last year.

More specifically, former President Donald Trump often mentioned the pandemic as the “China virus” to blame directly. That leads to more incidents. In fact, an Asian American family was berated with racist slurs by a Trump-Supporting tech executive. 

The new change law and art

This news covered all over the world. The movement is growing with Black Lives Matter. Regarding the majority of colored citizens are black people, Asian hate crimes rarely get the world’s tension. Throughout those pandemic restrictions, the case against Asian Americans emerged in spring 2020. 

On 22nd April, the U.S. Senate approved the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act to begin to deal with the violence and discrimination against Asian Americans. Approved by-laws is a big step as they can protect people. But they deserve more. And art is the key to changing people’s attitudes, mindset. Especially people who are spending their time at home and have more chance to connect with art. 

What the movie showed us 

This film “Minari” has a related theme with working-class struggles. Focusing on their inside feelings to make their dream come true as immigrants. In the world, there are so many movies about immigrants. For example, in Japan, there is a movie called “The Vancouver Asahi” It’s a story before WW1, Japanese immigrants who made a Japanese baseball team and had achieved incredible scores in Canada. The story highlighted Japanese Canadians living in the immigrant community and how to get close to Canadian cultures and people. This movie had won some prizes however didn’t get much sensation through the world.

The difference between this movie and “Minari” is, what it is focused on. Japanese movies focused on how difficult it was to live as an immigrant. Which only relates to immigrants or Japanese. However “Minari” ‘s theme is for everyone no matter what race, religion, nationality you are. It is easy to connect with the characters.

Maybe their circumstance, spoken language may sound unfamiliar. But their heart is uniquely American. This movie was no longer only a Korean Movie. Even it was not only for immigrants. This film is simply about a family which means it goes deeper than any language, it is about the culture. So that many Americans can be connected with this storyline and it showed us to overturn Asian American perspective.

It is just one movie but clearly, they have so much power and influence than laws to prevent discrimination. 

The hope with the Academy

Diversity, racism and movie industry

The Academy looks like they took the step to making their membership more diverse. The 2021 ceremony showed us strong and hopeful messages. 9 out of the 20 nominees were actors who were colored included Yuh-Jung for the 2020 Awards.

And the Academy set its own goals for the 2025 award. More diverse films will have a better chance to get nominated. In more detail, LGBTQ+, Racial and Ethnic groups, Gender equalities will have to appear in the films. It is long-term powerful hope for years in this movie industry.

Movies have been in people’s lives for so long and is even more important during the pandemic as more people are resorting to at home forms of entertainment like movies.

Significance in Anthropology and Culture

At last, Yuh-Jung’s winning was a dramatically big step forward for the Academy and for colored actors. With the Academy’s new diversity goals for 2050 awards, it was a piece of sensational news. The movie hit the right time in the middle of the rising Anti-Asian Hate Crimes, which made people think. 

In one of her words from her speeches, she said “all the nominees worked in the different movies, different war, we can not compete for each other. I was just a little bit luckier than you tonight.” It is just the beginning of the remarkable change in this industry and there is hope to look forward to.

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One thought on “The Need for Cultural Diversity in Mainstream Media

  1. So true!, Thanks Lisha for writing about this, it is so essential to have the academy to be diversified and equally acknowledged so to see this speaks massive volumes. I truly believe in this!! and praying that it continues to inspire, elevate, liberate change within the arts.

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