Earlier this week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its plans to backtrack on introducing the new “Best Popular Film” category after the internet, and a good chunk of Hollywood, exploded in a fit of bemused rage over the implications of the addition.
The general consensus amongst the public is that the new category was more or less the Academy attempting to throw a halfhearted bone to films like Black Panther that, while critically-acclaimed and financially successful, aren’t typically thought of as prestige films. Despite this being a very logical train of thought, it seems not to have occurred to the Academy’s leadership. In an interview with Deadline, Academy CEO Dawn Hudson said that she was genuinely shocked by the backlash:
“I was surprised. I am always surprised, including many times over the last several years, at the passion for the Oscars that people have, and I am heartened by it. It is still true every single time from whatever initiative we undertake or the Oscars — the responses we get from around the world, it’s stunning.”
While Hudon might have been surprised, the New York Times reports that a number of Academy members, including Laura Dern and Steven Spielberg, were not—and made a point of voicing their beliefs that the new category should not be added at a Tuesday meeting where members took a vote on the decision. The report says Dern “adamantly opposed” and Spielberg “was uncomfortable with plans to introduce the category at the coming Oscars.”
The Academy’s backed itself into something of a weird corner with this whole fiasco, because even though the Best Popular Film Oscar won’t be given out at the next ceremony, Hudson says it hasn’t abandoned the idea entirely. Going forward, the Academy will have to be very careful about how it ultimately decides to define the category if it wants to save face and demonstrate that people were wrong to turn their noses up at the idea.