Heads Up, Hollywood: Agents Can Vote For Oscars Now

Thanks to a new vote from the board of governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, agents – or "artists representatives" – are now eligible to cast votes for Academy Awards. Welcome to a new era of the Oscars.

While some agents have been welcomed into the club of Academy membership over the past several decades, the right to cast votes was not included. Agents were "associate members" who had access to the same screenings and screener disks that were available to full-fledged members, but they were not allowed to vote – until now.

The Hollywood Reporter relayed the new rule change, saying, "Henceforth, all agents who are already members will be transferred to the members-at-large branch — members of which do not fall neatly under one of the Academy's 17 other branches, but do still get to vote — and all agents who are invited to become members in the future will automatically join that branch."

The Academy is supposed to announce its new member invitations later this week. THR speculates that one reason the Academy might have opened up voting to agents now is so the organization can "further increase the number of women and people of color who are members as part of its recently-announced Academy Aperture 2025 initiative." That certainly seems like it would help them add some more diverse members to the ranks, and in theory, that should result in a better voting body that's more representative of the community.

In theory.

The immediate, knee-jerk reaction I've seen to this news is an outcry that agents will simply vote for their own clients, or the clients that are signed to their agency. That might very well happen, but I'm honestly not well-versed enough in the anonymous voting processes of the Oscars to be able to definitively make that leap. As THR points out, the Academy has had a Marketing and Public Relations branch for years, so the same outcries could be leveled against the folks in that branch.

I know there are plenty of more important things than the Oscars every year (especially as a pandemic rages around us), but rules like these can have real financial consequences for the people and movies involved, so I totally understand while people who follow this stuff take it very seriously. While it's easy to cynically write off this move and assume that every agent is just going to vote for their own clients every time, I have to assume that the board of governors – which includes people like Steven Spielberg, Laura Dern, Larry Karaszewski, Ruth E. Carter, Michael Giacchino, Jennifer Yuh Nelson, John Knoll, and many more – took that very obvious observation into account when making their decision. If they're not worried about it, we probably shouldn't be, either.