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Why everyone’s talking about Stephen King

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Stephen King
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Self-proclaimed liberal Stephen King

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Stephen King

Best-selling author criticised for Oscar diversity comments

In Depth James Ashford
Wednesday, January 15, 2020 - 11:00am

Stephen King has triggered an online row after voicing his views on the row over the lack of diversity in this year’s Academy Awards nominations. 

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Both film fans and high-profile Hollywood figures have criticised the world-famous US author after he tweeted  that “sex, color, or orientation” played no role in his decisions when voting on nominees for the 2020 Oscars.

Who is Stephen King?

In addition to penning best-selling horror books including It and The Shining, King is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which selects Oscar nominees and winners.

He is allowed to vote in three categories - Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay.

King has also enjoyed some Oscars success. Psychological horror film Misery, an adaptation of his 1987 novel of the same name, won one of the coveted gongs in 1991, with Kathy Bates taking the Best Actress award.

What did he say about diversity?

King has been in the firing line after tweeting that when picking Oscars nominations, “for me, the diversity issue - as it applies to individual actors and directors, anyway - did not come up”.

The apparently unprompted message was posted on Tuesday, “the day after the Oscars nominations were announced – and denounced for their lack of diversity”, says The Independent.

“That said, I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong,” King added.

The writer posted again less than three hours later in an apparent attempting to clarify his views. “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,” he wrote. “Right now such people are badly under-represented, and not only in the arts.”

He then completed his argument with a tweet that said: “You can’t win awards if you’re shut out of the game.”

The staunch Democrat has since reverted to his more standard form on Twitter, tweeting about former president Barack Obama, making book recommendations, and poking fun at plumbers, electricians and roofers.  

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And the reaction?

Twitter users have been quick to criticise King’s comments, with one saying that “as a white man”, it was not the writer’s place to dismiss diversity as a consideration when making nominations.

 That view has been echoed by a number of leading Hollywood names, with director Ava DuVernay calling King’s comments “backward and ignorant”.

Writer Roxane Gay said that she was disappointed that King only believed in “quality from one demographic”, reports The Guardian.

Social justice campaigner Brittany Packnett Cunningham, a former advisor to Obama, has also weighed in. Tweeting at King, she said: “You say you seek ‘quality’ in film. Until tastes are expanded, mostly traditional white narratives & styles will actually be deemed ‘quality.’

"Current measures of ‘quality’ are still exclusive,” she added.


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