Stephen King did a certified Bad Tweet™ in response to the lack of diversity among the 2020 batch of Academy Award nominees:
...I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.— Stephen King (@StephenKing) January 14, 2020
Stephen King is, to my mind, pretty much the dictionary definition of a Well-Meaning Old Dude. He's pretty liberal, he's outraged about current political dynamic, and he's got a strong sense of justice. He is also, in this context, making some very bad assumptions.
Awards are dumb. Awards are also completely subjective. In King's original tweet, he seems to be making the assumption that the Oscar winner for Best Picture for any year is obviously the best film released int hat year. History doesn't bear that out. Green Book is neither the best, nor the most memorable, film to be released last year. Crash has been almost entirely forgotten when compared to the legacy of Brokeback Mountain. Pulp Fiction was a much more meaningful film than Forrest Gump.
Awards are given by humans to celebrate human achievement. Humans are inherently biased, and every human has a number of blind spots. To disregard diversity within the context of awards is to argue that there is an objective truth behind awards — that one piece of art can be definitively declared better than another.
But that's simply not true. You might think Stephen King is the greatest novelist in the history of the world. I would disagree. But I can't change your opinion, nor should I want to change your opinion. It's important to remember that our own experiences often blind us to the value of art: white men are likely to appreciate art featuring white men over other types of art, and to dismiss art centering women as inferior or less valuable. That's why it's important to include a diverse voting body that can counter these kinds of inherent biases.
I will say this about the Academy Awards this year: Greta Gerwig's adaptation of Little Women is absolutely one of the best films I saw last year. It's a clever examination of the classic — one which uses deft editing to find some deeper truths about the book and its author. It incorporates a deep feminist criticism of the book into its narrative, and it includes one of the best sequences of the process of writing I've ever seen in a film. And in conjunction with Florence Pugh's brilliant performance, Gerwig also redeems Amy, who is one of the most misunderstood characters in American literature. If that's not an achievement worthy of a directing nomination, I'm not sure what is. But Gerwig wasn't nominated for a Best Direction Oscar, and that's a shame. I'm pretty sure that a voting body that more accurately represented the male/female split of the American moviegoing public would have recognized Gerwig's work.
With all that said, I don't think King is particularly worthy of the outrage or scorn that some media outlets seem to want to see. People sometimes make grand statements that fall apart upon closer investigation, and King doesn't have a particularly problematic history. It seems to me like a plain old bad tweet, and an opportunity to kick off a civil conversation about art and the way we celebrate it.