#OscarsSoWhiteAndMale... Again

In 2018, Natalie Portman famously introduced the best director category in the Golden Globes with the words “and here are the all-male nominees”.  Fast forward a couple of years to the Academy Awards 2020, and this time it is Issa Rae with the killer one-liner: “congratulations to those men”. 

The Oscars have been a thing for 92 years. During those 92 years, a total of five women have been nominated for the best director (first was Line Wertmüller in 1967 for Seven Beauties, and the latest Greta Gerwig in 2017 for Lady Bird). Of those five talented women, only one has won: Kathryn Bigelow in 2009 for The Hurt Locker. 

The problem isn’t that there are no good films directed by women. Gerwig, the director of the new adaptation of the beloved classic Little Women, was guessed by many to be amongst the nominees before the Academy showed its misogyny again; other names making appearances were Lulu Wang for The Farewell, Lorene Scafaria for The Hustlers, Mariel Heller for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and Céline Sciamma for A Portrait of a Lady on Fire, plus many others. These directors are extremely talented and should receive recognition for their talents; yet once again, all the nominees are men

It’s not just about the award for best director, though: among the nine nominees for best picture (generally considered the “top prize” and the most important award of the night), there are nine films. Of these nine, only one – Little Women – is directed by a woman. Apparently, the Academy's disdain for female directors is deeply rooted. 

The Hurt Locker,  a war film of a sergeant training a bomb disposal team during the Iraq War, is the only film that has brought its female director the golden man. This has lead people to question whether the issue goes deeper than just overlooking the female directors: is the Academy overlooking stories focusing on women as well? This year's nominations seem to support this: of the films considered for best picture this year, six of the nine revolve around men.

There’s nothing new in the Academy being so focused on white males; for it is not only the women who were snubbed nominations, but talented actors of colour were ignored as well, with the one exception of Cynthia Erivo for her performance of Harriet Tubman in Harriet. Nevertheless, it is disappointing to see that despite the criticism the Academy has received throughout the years, no change can be seen.

As Yohana Desta writes: “it’s not quite #OscarsSoWhite, but close enough”. In 2020, among the 20 actors and actresses nominated, 19 are white. And again, it’s not a question of there not being talented actors and actresses; Jennifer Lopez’s performance in The Hustlers has received a great deal of praise, and so has Lupita Nyong’o for her double role in Us. And what about the whole cast of The Parasite – nominated for the best director, best original screenplay and best picture, but without any recognition for the actors? Or Awkwafina, who won a Golden Globe for her performance in The Farewell?

It seems to me that the Academy has consciously turned a blind eye to the outcry it has received in the past, deciding that no change to their ways is needed. The only good thing here is the fact that everyone knows how wrong this is. In the words of Florene Pugh: “I’m happy that everybody is upset. It’s great when you don’t need to point out the obvious”.