The Academy once again failed to recognize a significant number of diverse artists in major categories when they announced the 2020 Oscar nominations on Monday.
Cynthia Erivo was the only person of color to be nominated out of the four acting categories and not one female director was nominated despite high expectations that Greta Gerwig was a shoe-in for her critically-acclaimed direction of Little Women.
Amidst the backlash the Academy received, horror novelist Stephen King commented that he would "never consider diversity in matters of art."
On Monday, the Doctor Sleep author explained that writers are allowed to nominate in three categories, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Screenplay.
"For me, the diversity issue--as it applies to individual actors and directors, anyway--did not come up. That said, I would never consider diversity in matters of art."
"Only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong."
As a writer, I am allowed to nominate in just 3 categories: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Origina… https://t.co/Y8JJL1TZ83— Stephen King (@Stephen King)1579004301.0
...I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.— Stephen King (@Stephen King)1579004415.0
His take on unbiased voting was met with immediate criticism, with filmmaker Octavia Butler clarifying that the work of women and people of color do, in fact, produce compelling contributions of quality.
@StephenKing To imply quality and diversity are mutually exclusive tells us quite loudly how threatened you are by… https://t.co/5tb47asCuM— Octavia Butler knew... (@Octavia Butler knew...)1579011003.0
@StephenKing Difficult as creative industries are to penetrate, you KNOW us women and poc who make it past myriad o… https://t.co/oWkS0o5L07— Octavia Butler knew... (@Octavia Butler knew...)1579011400.0
Others agreed and emphasized the importance of recognizing marginalized demographics.
@StephenKing With the utmost respect, I think this is quite a bit unfair. When films created by people of color, ir… https://t.co/p6QQcngdV6— Morgan Jerkins (@Morgan Jerkins)1579004844.0
@StephenKing You're wrong. Even ignoring the assumption that quality will always rise to the top (it doesn't), div… https://t.co/tIZA4F6Mhk— Sloth Moo 🦥🐮 (@Sloth Moo 🦥🐮)1579011405.0
They also acknowledged the fact that as a White male, King has had an easier career path than women and POC.
@StephenKing You're a very smart person ans one of my favourite writers, but you must acknowledge you've had an eas… https://t.co/wgYJpC9HeW— Faron Gidge 📷 (He/Him) (@Faron Gidge 📷 (He/Him))1579004716.0
@StephenKing Sir, respectfully saying you as a white man can’t really say that. You had more advantages and opportu… https://t.co/qVeRATru35— David Weissman (@David Weissman)1579007141.0
@StephenKing Damn, Stephen. Damn. I thought you were better than this. It should be obvious that diversity and qual… https://t.co/G2ElKCxzhB— N. K. Jemisin (@N. K. Jemisin)1579021664.0
@StephenKing As a fan, this is painful to read from you. It implies that diversity and quality cannot be synonymous… https://t.co/gs4UOIoVs7— roxane gay (@roxane gay)1579022894.0
A couple of hours after his initial comment, King responded to the backlash and attempted to save face with a followup tweet, explaining:
"The most important thing we can do as artists and creative people is make sure everyone has the same fair shot, regardless of sex, color, or orientation."
"Right now such people are badly under-represented, and not only in the arts."
The most important thing we can do as artists and creative people is make sure everyone has the same fair shot, reg… https://t.co/hkjSfDEPmm— Stephen King (@Stephen King)1579013786.0
He concluded the conversation by declaring:
"You can't win awards if you're shut out of the game."
You can't win awards if you're shut out of the game.— Stephen King (@Stephen King)1579013945.0
Selma director Ava DuVernay, who advocates for inclusion in Hollywood, expressed her disappointment for the revered writer.
When you wake up, meditate, stretch, reach for your phone to check on the world and see a tweet from someone you ad… https://t.co/aeRncZ9UXW— Ava DuVernay (@Ava DuVernay)1579014950.0
King deflected the social media censure by praising DuVernay's work on When They See Us.
But DuVernay—who in 2014 became one of five women in the 77-year history of the Golden Globes to be recognized for Best Director for Selma— emphasized the conversation was not about scratching each other's backs.
@StephenKing @JanetMaslin Loved THE SHINING, CARRIE, SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (RITA), STAND BY ME (THE BODY). But thi… https://t.co/fSVN7GrGTO— Ava DuVernay (@Ava DuVernay)1579045838.0
@ava @StephenKing @JanetMaslin Complimenting When They See Us is evidence that quality and diversity are not mutual… https://t.co/MO0Cpy0i81— Pumulo Ngoma (@Pumulo Ngoma)1579047051.0
The conversation continued, with many suggesting how the author could incite change for a level playing field for other writers.
@StephenKing So what are you doing to raise up marginalized writers in mystery and horror? 🤔 How about: creating me… https://t.co/DvadjvFqIj— Jessica Laine (@Jessica Laine)1579017039.0
@StephenKing Agreed. But will that happen if there is not diversity among the gatekeepers? That seems to me the bes… https://t.co/yxePtXZqgO— D.W. Gregory (@D.W. Gregory)1579014803.0
@StephenKing Right now badly under-represented people STILL manage to put out stellar art that people like you who… https://t.co/fc5fCDlpkY— BlackWomenViews (@BlackWomenViews)1579017316.0
@StephenKing You could do a lot about this in the publishing world if you wanted to. Put your money where your mouth is.— 🌈Rebecca Renner🌴 (@🌈Rebecca Renner🌴)1579018026.0
@StephenKing So basically, it should be changed but you're not going to have a part in that because you don't consi… https://t.co/QTpXwNlfh5— Addy, Elsewhere🌈[Author, Cybrarian, Chaotic Bi] (@Addy, Elsewhere🌈[Author, Cybrarian, Chaotic Bi])1579015366.0
But hey, his final tweet was a noble start.
@StephenKing Getting warmer, Firestarter. 😂— Tory Hunter (@Tory Hunter)1579013842.0
BuzzFeed News reached out to King's reps and have yet to hear back regarding the backlash.