Oscars is one of the most-awaited and celebrated award ceremonies of the year. It has always been a carnival brewing with dance, drama, music, entertainment, emotions, snarky comments, comedy, and controversies! Oscars 2020 was no different, especially in the terms of controversy. Once again #OscarsSoWhite was trending along with #OscarsSoMale and #OscarsSoStraight on social media. While these hashtags may only seem like token activism, they highlight the problematic trend of the absolute lack of representation of diversity in Oscars.
“Congratulations to those men“, said Isa Rae, as she announced the nominations for the ‘best director’ category of the Oscars 2020. Her reaction to the absence of any female directors from the category was applauded by many. But, in case you think she overreacted, let’s look at some disturbing facts.
In the 92 years of existence of Oscars, only 5 women till now have been nominated in the category of Best Director. Out of the 5, Kathryn Bigelow is the only woman who has ever won the award for her movie, The Hurt Locker in 2009. Think about it, in nearly a century only 5 women have ever been nominated!
In the 92 years of existence of Oscars, only 5 women till now have been nominated in the category of Best Director. Out of the 5, Kathryn Bigelow is the only woman who has ever won the award for her movie, ‘The Hurt Locker’ in 2009.
Now, if you want to blame the fact that women aren’t doing a good job in direction or there are very few women in the industry itself, then let me clarify, this is far far away from the truth. 2019 was a ‘banner year’ for women filmmakers with the highest number of women directing films since the study by USC Anneberg Inclusive Initiative began 13 years ago and was part of some of the highest-grossing films of 2019. There were films such as The Farewell by Lulu Wang, Little Women by Greta Gerwig, A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood by Marielle Heller, Hustlers by Lorene Scafaria and Honey Boy by Alma Har’el that were well appreciated but somehow failed to impress the jury.
Greta Gerwig the director of Little Women who was nominated for her movie Lady Bird in 2018, was left out from the nominations for her highly acclaimed film Little Women. The movie was nominated for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, but she was not nominated for the category of Best Director. In 2018 she was the only woman who was nominated after an entire decade! Come on, Hollywood!
This problem of exclusivity is not restricted to Oscars, there is a similar trend across the various film awards. Besides the lack of women in the category of direction, the absence of people of colour from the nominations was also highly criticised. UCLA’s Hollywood Diversity Report points out that there has been an increase in the representation of women and coloured people in acting. However, the story behind the camera is entirely different because the white males still dominate the positions of director, writer, and executives. The increased representation of women and people of colour only seems to be a marketing stunt and a tokenistic step towards diversity.
The only person of colour to be nominated was Cynthia Erivo for her role in Harriet for the best actress category, while no male actor was nominated for the award. The only saving grace was Bong Joon-Ho winning the best director for his film Parasite. Besides winning four awards, Parasite made history by becoming the first non-English language film to win the best picture award. But, it doesn’t negate the lack of representation of minorities in the Oscars.
Besides winning four awards, Parasite made history by becoming the first non-English language film to win the best picture award. But, it doesn’t negate the lack of representation of minorities in the Oscars.
Why is the lack of diversity an issue?
The lack of diversity might seem like a trivial issue but it surely isn’t. Awards as prestigious as Oscars dictate the kind of stories that will be told and how they will be told and by whom. When women or people of colour are left out of the nominations category, it reiterates the trend of white males dominating the industry. Secondly, it is about being truly acknowledging and accepting of diversity.
Moreover, when the minority groups are represented in films and shows, it provides an opportunity for the audience, especially those belonging to minority groups to view their own stories through the characters and relate with the characters and their lives.
When minority groups see a story that resembles their own life, it makes them feel that their stories are worthy of being told. This is what diversity looks like. But by excluding minority groups in the nominations, Hollywood is essentially taking a step back.
Featured Image Source: The Hollywood Reporter