The Oscars: Celebrating Mediocrity and White Men

It’s that time of year again where old white people decide the fate of our favorite, and sometimes least favorite, films! Awards season has a reputation for celebrating a single brand of TV and film and that brand is Movies Made by White Guys (for White Guys). It may sound harsh, but it’s a known fact that women, people of color and women of color are snubbed of awards and nominations that the box office and audience believe they deserve. In the Oscars’ 92 year history, only five women have been nominated for Best Director and only one has won. That number is rather shocking and to be honest, appalling. Women have created films that pull audiences in and rack up huge box office numbers. For example, Booksmart by Olivia Wilde came out in May 2019 and has garnered a huge following as well making more than $24 million dollars across the world. Fans have developed a sort of cult following and love for the coming of age film’s diversity, humor and relatability, but it went unrecognized in the Academy and only received one nomination at the Golden Globes. Why is that?

The Academy has come under fire for a lot within the past decade due to a lack of diversity in their nominees, but it can’t go without mentioning that the actual panel of voters in the Academy lacks diversity as well. The vast majority of the Academy is white and so are the staggeringly large amount of actors, actresses, directors and films that they nominate (91 percent of panelists were white in 2016). The same old stories are being selected because of a narrow point of view that most of the selection panel has. The male population of the Academy dominates the number of women on the panel as well (76 percent male in 2016), shrinking the global perspective even more.

Courtesy LA Times

Lately, the Academy has also shown that they have no interest in comedies, dramedies and/or horror films. A recurring theme in the Oscars nomination list year after year is that drama and, most often really long and intense dramas, reign supreme in the Academy. Sometimes bleak and often times long-winded films about war, period pieces and psychopaths are usually the winners of many categories and score big with a win in the Best Picture category. For example, some winners of Best Picture over the years have been Gladiator, No Country for Old Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Braveheart, Platoon, The Godfather and Rocky. It’s very difficult to find a Best Picture winner that strays from the formula of having intense drama and ventures into a category such as comedy or horror. The “funniest” movies on the Best Picture list for this year’s Oscars are about Nazis (Jojo Rabbit) and the Manson family (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood). The Academy fails to nominate anything that isn’t deeply traumatic or a biopic, making the Oscars a desert wasteland devoid of humor.

Courtesy NY Post

This very picky and repetitive selection process has led to many snubs for movies and actors that fans love and want to see nominated. For example, this past Monday morning, the Oscars nominations for this year were released and it upset a huge amount of people. A large number of fan-favorite films were missing from the list such as The Farewell, Uncut Gems, Us and Rocketman. The lead and supporting actors and actresses from those films were also robbed despite putting on performances that were the highlight of their career and garnered talk of being “Oscar-worthy." Two prime examples of this being Adam Sandler and Awkwafina. Adam Sandler starred in Uncut Gems which was said by viewers and critics to have what it takes to be nominated and even win, however, it didn’t get a single nomination Monday morning. The same goes for Awkwafina who played the lead in The Farewell. Awkwafina had just recently won Best Actress in a Drama at the Golden Globes just over a week ago and her performance received rave reviews, but she and the film didn’t get any nominations from the Academy either.

This year’s nominations seem to match the recurring theme I mentioned earlier, with Joker, 1917 and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood all sweeping almost every category. These three films all fit the formula the Academy loves: Movies Made by White Guys (for White Guys). I realize my comments may garner a reaction of “well maybe women/POC should make better movies,” and to that I say, “they do.” Movies that have cult followings, devoted fans, audiences across multiple genres and huge box office hits are often directed by women and POC (for example, Clueless (1995), Lady Bird (2017), Us (2018) and Little Women (all six adaptations). Female and POC directors have also had their films receive nominations in other categories, which proves the point that the movies they make are deserving of high awards.

Overall, the Oscars have proven that they are not yet capable of change and who knows if they ever will be. There is a very systematic problem going on dealing with race and gender and until the systematic oppression of minority voices in Hollywood ceases, the Oscars may always look very white and masculine.

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