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Jamie Lee Curtis’s Oscar Win Lost My Respect for the Academy

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at FSU chapter.

After a lifetime of starring in slasher films and Disney Channel Original Movies, Hollywood veteran Jamie Lee Curtis has won her first Oscar. At the 95th Academy Awards, the patron saint of nepo babies took home the trophy for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the 2022 film Everything Everywhere All At Once. The actress couldn’t contain her joy as she graciously thanked everyone involved in her success (including her Oscar-nominated parents, Old Hollywood royalty Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh).

But Curtis’s win indicates a bigger problem, one that has been around since the industry began and doesn’t seem likely to change any time soon: Hollywood values tenure over talent.

Curtis appears on screen in Everything Everywhere All At Once as Deirde Beaubeirdre (in all her wacky iterations) for a total of 17 minutes and 15 seconds. That’s only 12 percent of the film. Her acting isn’t revolutionary either. Beaubeirdre is at best, a stereotypically dry tax auditor; at worst, a scary romantic with hot dog fingers. Curtis’s emotion during her acceptance speech is more Oscar-worthy than her performance in the film itself.

She didn’t win an acting award. She won a lifetime achievement award.

Jamie Lee Curtis was 19 years old when she made her silver screen debut in Halloween (1978). Since then, she’s done enough horror films to establish herself as one of Hollywood’s reigning scream queens—which means virtually nothing to the Academy. In the history of the Academy Awards, only one horror film (The Silence of the Lambs) has ever won Best Picture. Only three actors (interestingly, all women) have ever won Oscars for horror film performances. The Academy has yet to see horror as a prestigious genre, leaning more toward psychological thrillers than cult classics like Halloween. Curtis’s chosen genre has overshadowed the quality of her acting throughout her entire career. Until now, the Academy had no reason to nominate her for an award.

Everything Everywhere All At Once is arguably the first project in Curtis’s “serious” filmography (aka Oscar-baiting dramas) to gain mainstream success. Curtis is a household name; even those who haven’t watched the film have enough faith in the star to believe that she deserves her win. The issue is that she doesn’t. How is it possible that someone who’s on screen for 12 percent of a film wins the award for Best Supporting Actress over fresh talent like Stephanie Hsu, who appears on screen nearly three times as much in the same film in a much more crucial role? Curtis is 64 years old, but she hasn’t announced any intention of retiring from the entertainment industry. There shouldn’t have been a rush to award her with an Oscar for a thoroughly undeserving role when she is talented and able enough to deliver better performances in the future. Why give a lifetime achievement award to someone whose life in the spotlight is far from over?

The Academy works like an odd hybrid of the Electoral College and the popular vote. Voting results have shown favoritism time and time again to A-listers across the film industry, from directors like Steven Spielberg to composers like John Williams. The public doesn’t bat an eye when the Academy chooses a well-connected Hollywood star over the popular choice so long as their performance deserves it. Jamie Lee Curtis fails to meet this criterion, and no public image can save a job blandly done.

The Academy Awards have opened their arms to technical originality, but acting awards are still dictated by who the nominees are rather than the quality of their work. Talent recognizes talent. But in Hollywood, talent yields to tenure.

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Fabiana Beuses is an entertainment journalist at Her Campus, where she interviews celebrities and professionally fangirls over pop culture phenomena. She previously served as the Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus at FSU and as Her Campus' Summer 2023 Entertainment & Culture Intern. She graduated from Florida State University with double majors in Media/Communication Studies and English (Editing, Writing, and Media) and a minor in Film Studies. When she's not polishing her latest article, you can find her browsing bookstore aisles, taste-testing vanilla lattes around town, or rewatching the Harry Potter series for the millionth time.