The Oscars continue to hold its position as one of the highest regards and honors in the world of film. It’s been 5 years since the hashtag “#OscarsSoWhite” went viral and sparked an essential conversation on the Academy’s lack of diversity and inclusion. Yet, with the 92nd award ceremony approaching this weekend, it still seems that despite having 5 years to learn from their mistakes, the Oscars have remained so, so white.
The movement of sorts began in 2015 when media personality and activist, April Reign, tweeted: “#OscarsSoWhite they asked to touch my hair.” Reign’s tweet was in response to there being no people of color nominated for any of the Academy’s acting categories. Fast forward to 2020 and there is only one person of color, actress Cynthia Erivo, nominated in an acting category for a film where, of course, she plays a slave.
In a year of films such as “Parasite”, “The Farewell”, “Atlantics”, “Hustlers”, extreme amounts of talent was completely ignored and shut out by the Academy’s voters. These films had very successful and celebrated festival and theatrical releases which granted them much buzz for Oscar nominations. Yet, as the award ceremonies that precede the Oscars came around, it became very clear how this year’s award season was going to end up.
The 2016 Oscars showed how the Academy again repeated their past by having zero actors or directors of color nominated for their “major” awards. Yet, a year later, the 2017 Oscars gave viewers and critics a semblance of hope. “Moonlight” a film telling the story of a gay man’s upbringing featuring an all-black cast won Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor.
We saw Viola Davis win her first Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for “Fences” - making her tie with Octavia Spencer as the most nominated black women. 4 out of the 9 films nominated for Best Picture had people of color as the leading characters. In 2018, Daniel Kaluuya & Denzel Washington were nominated for Best Lead Actor. Coco won Best Animated Feature and Mexican director, Guillermo Del-Toro won Best Director and Best Picture for “The Shape of Water”. Another notable highlight was “Get Out” winning Best Original Screenplay, making Jordan Peele the first black man to ever win.
For what felt like the first time, people of color were being rightfully granted these prestigious awards. So, after three years straight of the Academy becoming more open to films that aren’t all directed by or starring white people, this year’s nominees came as quite a huge shock. Did the Oscars decide that 3 years of representation was enough, so, now, they can go back to their regularly scheduled lack of diversity? When these organizations and ceremonies make it obvious that they don’t care about what people of color create, the question of whether we should stop caring about them too arises. Yet, when career breakthroughs and excellences are so blatantly disregarded, of course, people are going to be angry and hurt.
The Oscars aren’t the only problem. This awards season saw the very reputable BAFTA’s (British Academy of Film and Television Awards) also nominate only white performers in their acting categories. Even going as far as nominating both Scarlett Johansson and Margot Robbie twice in their respective categories. There was also the matter of no women being nominated for best director despite Greta Gerwig & Lulu Wang releasing two of the best-reviewed films of the year.
The ultimate and final issue then becomes: where do we go from here? Unfortunately, there still isn’t a direct answer to that question. The voting members need to be refreshed as older, white people will only continue to award other white people. Notably skilled stories and storytellers are being neglected just so white men can be given the ability to tell the same narratives. There has been countless outrage from critics and even those within Hollywood. Yet, the Academy continues to show their true colors while dismissing those of color. This Sunday, February 9th, tune into the 92nd Academy Awards - or don’t.