Arts & Culture

Oscars So White (again)

Cynthia Terry, Staff Writer

The Academy Award nominations were released earlier this month. As has been the case for the Oscars in the past, there is a clear and present lack of diversity among the nominees.  Joker received 11 nominations. The Irishman received 10 nominations. What we saw in 2019 with these nominations is that most of them are films that reflect the experiences of straight white men. Since the majority of the Academy are white males, and the nominations are viewed through their lens, the Oscars comes down to a popularity contest among mostly straight white males. 

One could argue that there just were not any films featuring a non-white actor that were award-worthy, but there were. There are performers of color who have received or at least were nominated for the Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice Awards and Screen Actors Guild Awards, including Awkwafina in The Farewell, Lupita Nyong’o in Us and Jamie Foxx in Just Mercy. Parasite received six Academy Award nominations, all very well-deserved. But none of the cast did. The only performer of color to be nominated was Cynthia Erivo for playing Harriet Tubman in Harriet. This nomination, however, shows that of all the Black actresses who have been nominated for best actress or best supporting actress, the vast majority play women dealing with trauma. 

In the Oscars’ 91-year history, only 5 women have been nominated for best director, with only 1 winning: Lina Wertmüller in 1976, Jane Campion in 1993, Sofia Coppola in 2003, Kathryn Bigelow in 2009 and Greta Gerwig in 2017. Bigelow is the only woman to have won the award, which she received for The Hurt Locker. Again, one could argue that there are not good female directors, but there are many. Some of the female directors who were not nominated include Kasi Lemmons for Harriet, Lulu Wang for The Farewell and Lorene Scafaria for Hustlers. Then there is Little Women, which was a critical hit. This film was nominated for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay and 4 others. Crucially, this list is missing Best Director for Greta Gerwig. 

This year has seen many brilliant examples of overtly queer cinema, yet the only film to get any real traction was Pain and Glory, a poignant drama about an aging gay director from auteur Pedro Almodovar. There was not even a cinematography nomination for the lesbian romance Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

#OscarsSoWhite started in 2015 and then again in 2016. It is time for a change so that not only white men get the accolades and nominations, but instead there is a diverse group of nominees.