Mashing up the Faces of Every Oscar Winner Paints a Pretty Ugly Picture

February 28th 2016

Aron Macarow

Despite widespread coverage of #OscarsSoWhite and the backlash against Academy voters for their continued failure to nominate any people of color in acting categories, some people just don't get it. Apparently, even some in the media are among those that still are confused by the uproar:

Enter a new infographic put together by Venngage:

[INFOGRAPHIC] Oscar Winners by Race

It can be hard to get perspective on exactly how infrequently Black artists and other people of color in the entertainment industry are nominated by the Academy for an Oscar.

Some feel that the last two years of Oscar nods — in which no people of color were nominated in acting category — were an anomaly. Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren even told the UK's Channel 4 News, “I think it’s unfair to attack the Academy. It just so happened this year, it went that way."

If we only stick to very recent history, that may seem true: Octavia Spencer (2011) and Lupita Nyong'o (2013) both had recent Oscar wins for Best Supporting Actress, and Denzel Washington (2012) and Morgan Freeman (2009) have each seen Best Lead Actor nominations in the last ten years.

But dig deeper and it's clear that the big picture is very different.


First, Oscar wins went to people of color very rarely prior to 1980. And even after that date, they're still relatively uncommon. If you're of Native American descent, in fact, only two actors have even been nominated for the prize, and no Native Americans have ever received an Oscar.

Oscar winners by race

Worse yet, when people of color do win, chances are good that the character they're depicting is either a famous person of color, who couldn't reasonably be cast as a white person, or the character plays into racial stereotypes. In a shocking 55 percent of cases, according to Venngage analysis, Oscar-winning roles for people of color fell into one of eight racial stereotypes, including the "thug," the "maid/mammy," and the "angry/sassy Black woman."

8 racial stereotypes that are common in movies.

The other 20 percent were depictions of recognizable people, like Ray Charles, whom audiences know to be non-white. (Some will note that this didn't stop the reverse from happening when Joseph Fiennes was recently cast as Michael Jackson in an upcoming film, a decision he has defended as "colorblind.") Only 1-in-4 roles were neither a heavily stereotyped character or a famous person.

Oscar wins for people of color by type of role

While it's not so easy to override the reality that most roles given to people of color fall into a narrow range of typecast characters, it can still be difficult to understand the whole picture: that although racial minorities make up a smaller share of the U.S. population that white individuals, people of color do not win Oscars at rates that are equal to their overall share in the U.S. population.

Latino artists, for instance, make up 17 percent of American males and 16 percent of American females. How often has the Latino community won an Oscar, however, since the 1980s? The disparity is extreme; only 3 percent of male and female winners were Latino during the last twenty years.


Although still not equal, Black actors actually experience somewhat greater parity, with 10 percent of male wins and 9 percent of female wins going to black individuals. By comparison, Black men and women make up 12 percent and 13 percent of the total population, respectively.


There are certainly other problems that lead to the Oscars' diversity problem beyond Academy voters — from who is offered roles to what types of projects get financed. (Don Cheadle just revealed that he had to find a white co-star in order to get investors to fund is Miles Davis film project.) But unless we draw the conclusion from looking at these graphics that artists of color are simply less talented than white performers — and that's obviously not the case — there's no denying that the Academy has a race problem as well.

h/t Oscar Winners by Race by Venngage