March 3rd, 2017
The 2017 Academy Awards was off to a great start with an impressive opening performance from Justin Timberlake and hilarious, witty jokes from host Jimmy Kimmel. Audiences were pleased with all of the diverse actors, actresses, screenwriters and pictures nominated for the most desired 24 karat gold-plated statue, the Oscar. Last year, the award show garnered negative attention for nominating only white actors and actresses in the top four categories for the second year in a row. The lack of diversity had generated a boycott and the trending hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.
This year, the Oscars had such high expectations, that is, until “envelope gate” occurred. When it was time to announce the winner for Best Picture, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway had mistakenly been handed a duplicate envelope for Best Actress, which Emma Stone had won earlier for her role in “La La Land.” Beatty stared at the envelope in confusion while Dunaway saw the card inside the envelope and read “La La Land” out loud.
The crowd cheered! The cast rejoiced! The producers even started to give their acceptance speeches. Moments later, they were abruptly told there had been a mistake and “Moonlight” had actually won Best Picture.
At first, outraged viewers pointed their fingers at Beatty and Dunaway. It soon become clear that it was not their fault but instead a mistake made by two employees of PwC, the accounting firm who tallies the votes. One of the accountants in particular, Brian Cullinan, was busy posting photos of the celebrities he met to Twitter, which suggests he was not focused on his job when he handed the wrong envelope to Beatty.
PwC, formerly PricewaterhouseCoopers, has counted Oscar votes for the last 83 years. Unfortunately, this mishap creates uncertainty as to whether or not they will be trusted to oversee the Oscar votes next year. The incident, which is extremely embarrassing for PwC, has the potential to tarnish the accounting firm’s reputation depending on how their PR team handles the crisis. PwC has since issued an apology and has banned the two accountants responsible for the blunder from working at the Oscars ever again. To further restore faith in their company, PwC needs to stay in front of this gaffe and learn from the mistakes of others such as Chipotle.
Just as the Academy Awards were being applauded for promoting diversity in Hollywood, controversy once again “upstaged” the show. While the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has a year to figure this out, it may take longer for PwC.