• Eleanor McCoy

The Oscars fail minority filmmakers. Again.


Once again, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have proven that their steps toward diversity have only emphasized the perpetuating biases that haunt the Oscar nominations. This year’s nominees include the popular retelling of DC comic character in Joker, a modern take on the literary classic Little Women, and the gripping tale of class and greed in Parasite. However, there is one similarity that comes to mind. Of all the eligible incredible film-makers (including actors, directors, writers, and more), the only ones nominated are predominantly white and male. Again.


This glaring trend is nothing new. In fact, it has occurred since the Oscars inception in 1929. For decades, women were never recognized for their work outside of the acting category, and people of color were excluded from being nominated altogether. Unfortunately, this archaic trend continued into the 2020 nominations.


Nominations should be purely based on artistic value and merit. However, when a large part of the voting body of the Academy doesn’t consider women and people of color’s work as “good enough” to warrant a nomination, how can we expect them to judge any film unbiasedly?


The ability of Oscar voters to judge films on artistic merit on has been a point of controversy before, most notably in the #OscarSoWhite controversy of 2015, where yet again, the majority of the nominees were white. This year, all of the acting nominees (male and female) are white, except for Cynthia Erivo for her portrayal of Harriet Tubman.


No one is saying those nominated are undeserving of their nominations, but in the same year of acclaimed performances such as Lupita Nyong'o in US, the cast of the Southern Korean thriller Parasite, and Eddie Murphy in Dolemite is My Name, can it really be said that Scarlett Johannson needed a nomination in two categories? Perhaps one of those nominations could have been filled by another deserving actress, such as Jennifer Lopez as a supporting actress for her lauded role in Hustlers.


The problem isn’t only rooted in the acting nominations. Ignoring the work of minorities spans across all facets of filmmaking, from cinematography to music to directing. Not recognizing minorities for their artistic achievements sends the message that their work is inferior to that of a whiter person, or a man. This message has always been abhorrent, and it has absolutely no place in the modern film industry.


Women were also shut out of deserving nominations this year. Greta Gerwig is the mind behind one of the year’s best films, Little Women. The fresh take on the classic story would not have been possible without Gerwig’s direction and vision. Yes, the film did get a nomination for Best Film and Best Adapted Screenplay, but so did the films of every man nominated for Best Director.


Nominating Gerwig for the two aforementioned awards, but not director, only shows the Academy’s refusal to acknowledge women’s key role in the creation of films. Gerwig, along with fellow celebrated female directors, shows that Hollywood still does not recognize women as masters of cinema. The same stands for people of color in the film industry.


Excluding minorities in the Oscar nominations only perpetuates the idea that film is by white people, or white men, and for only white people and white men. In today’s day and age, how is this idea tolerated by Oscar voters? The Academy loves our stories, loves selling women’s and people of color’s stories to adoring masses, but refuses to acknowledge the brilliant minds behind them. If the Academy wants to remain relevant in the modern world, it is high time that Oscar nominations reflect the diverse, deserving, talents in modern cinema.


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