Three years ago today, the Academy Awards were celebrating diversity and culture, creating a platform for marginalized voices. In 2017, “Moonlight,” which featured an entirely black ensemble, won Best Picture and Best Director. In the same year, Greta Gerwig was nominated for best director for her film “Lady Bird,” which followed the identity struggles of a troubled teenage girl. Despite those two steps forward that the Academy took towards equal representation, they seem to have taken a step back.
This year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated, and ultimately awarded people who were primarily white and male.
Cynthia Evro of “Harriet” was the only person of color to be nominated in the best actress and actor category. Despite predictions that Jennifer Lopez was going to be nominated for Best Supporting Actress, she was omitted from the list, which consisted of only white actresses. Lupita Nyongo, a Kenyan-Mexican actress was also excluded from the best actress list despite giving film history one of the most textured and multi-dimensional characters of 2019 in “Us.”
No women were nominated for Best Director. Greta Gerwig for “Little Women,” Lulu Wang for “The Farewell,” and Lorene Scafaria for “Hustlers” were left off the ballot. One thing that these films had in common was that they were stories about women, produced by women.
Only five women in the history of the Academy Awards have been nominated for Best Director, including Greta Gerwig. In 2010, Kathryn Bigelow was the only female to Best Director Award for her film “The Hurt Locker.”
Just one best-picture winner over the past decade has had a female protagonist – Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water.”
Now that movements such as #MeToo and Time’s Up are no longer as prominent in the media, the important takeaways that were so heavily stressed are gone with them.
Films, directors, and actors become eligible to win an Oscar once they are nominated by the Academy. The Academy has a thorough voting system in which each Academy member gets to vote in each category, only once. Then, votes are tallied up, and whoever has the most wins. The body that participates in the voting is a whopping nine-thousand people, with 94 percent Caucasian and 77 percent male voters. African-Americans make up only 3 percent of the total, Latinos and Asians even less, according to the Los Angeles Times.
At this year’s 92nd Academy Awards, the South Korean film “Parasite,” won four major awards including, Best Director, Best Foreign Language Film, and Best Original Screenplay. But, the most impressive award it took home was Best Picture, making it the first film in a foreign language to win the Academy’s most prestigious award. Although the Academy took a step forward in honoring foreign films, they still did not award an Oscar to any female filmmakers or the one person of color in the “Best Actress” category.
There is an obvious bias in which films, directors, and actors would get chosen to be nominated and ultimately win. Since the voting demographic is made up of white-elderly men, films with a leading man and/or war stories end up winning the major awards such as, Best Picture and Best Director because that is what appeals to the majority of the voting body. In order to make sure that the stories of marginalized people and of women are represented in the awards, the Academy needs to include younger, more diverse, and female members in order to challenge the veterans in what is deemed normal to win the award. By doing this the Academy Awards would more accurately reflect the demographics of the nation, rather than just the tastes of old white men.