Well, there you have it: the award for Best Picture has been handed out, Neil Patrick Harris has hung up his hat, and the whitest Academy Awards since 1998 are finally behind us. But for April Reign -- the attorney and blogger at ReignOfApril.com who started the prolific #OscarsSoWhite hashtag last January -- the battle to make America's most esteemed awards show more inclusive has only just begun.
"I look at it as a success," Reign told MTV News over the phone, referring to the fact that the show clearly tried to smooth things over with viewers of color, given the abundance of black presenters, and even NPH's well-received "best and whitest" joke.
"The fact that there were so many people of color presenting last night seems to me that the Academy knew that there was a problem with people taking notice of the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, and the conversations that emanated from it," she continued. "They were trying to make some last minute tweaks to say, ‘Hey, yes, we are diverse, we are inclusive, look at all these presenters.’"
However, the presence of people of color at last night's show will almost definitely not change the Oscars' biggest problem when it comes to lack of diversity in nominations -- Academy voters are still 94 percent white, 76 percent male, and 63-years-old, on average. But getting people like Lupita Nyong'o, David Oyelowo, and Octavia Spencer on stage still increases their visibility, and Reign notes that it's necessary for them to show up in order to get more of their movies made.
"It felt like tokenism to me, and that is absolutely no disrespect to the actors who presented last night... I fully understand that with Hollywood, just like any other industry, you have to play the game," Reign continued. "It was never my thought -- and this is important for me to get out there -- that actors and actresses should boycott the Oscars.
"We just saw the article about Mo’Nique getting blackballed. I would not want an actor or actress of color to commit potential career suicide by boycotting, and not doing the things that they need to do to get ahead. When they do, eventually they get behind the camera -- they start directing and start producing, and that’s important. Then they can bring people along with them."
And that, Reign says, is truly the crux of it -- you're not going to see diversity in nominations until you see diversity in the films themselves, and that's what those who care about #OscarsSoWhite should plan to focus on in the near future.
"I think it’s important that we vote, participate, and speak out with our viewership, and with our dollars," she said. "Everyone, not just people of color and not just marginalized communities, should see films that focus on the experience of marginalized communities. I don’t like hearing, ‘This is a black film, only black people need to go see it.’ Because I don’t understand what that means. ‘Selma’ was about American history -- not just black history."
Also, Reign says that those who want to see more nominations for actors of color should put pressure on studios -- whether it's with tweets, dollars, or more -- to expand diversity in hiring for all roles, not just for films about the Civil Rights Movement, and slavery.
"We still need to put the pressure on studios to cast more diverse people in film," she concluded. "‘Birdman’ won Best Picture and was a fantastic movie, but there’s nothing that says that an Andy Garcia or Ken Watanabe could not have played that role equally as well as Michael Keaton did. They should at least get the opportunity.
"So for me, the emphasis will be on working through Twitter and through social media to get people to support more diverse films, and keep the pressure on the studios to make more diverse films. Movie dollars are important, and that’s what the studios want. We need to show them that there’s more to us than just roles of subservience, and those stories need to be told."