There's no denying that the #Oscars are the ultimate prestige award for filmmaking, influencing not only the box office but the landscape of cinema — the stories we decide to tell, and the people we decide to give a voice to. As such, the films the Academy discards can be just as important as those the Academy upholds, as they reveal some disturbing trends in Hollywood, and all media.
Last year, the Oscar nominations provoked scandal, after many people noticed that the slate of nominees and later winners were entirely white. The films nominated also focused on white stories with an almost entirely white cast, while dramas with ethnically diverse casts — such as Beasts of No Nation, Creed and Straight Outta Compton — were snubbed.
Outrage at the Academy's choices turned into a legitimate movement, as the #OscarsSoWhite conversation dominated social media. But there can be no such complaints against the Oscars this year, as the nominations are refreshingly diverse.
A Step Forward
The #Oscars2017 nominations were released yesterday, and with actors like Dev Patel, Mahershala Ali, Denzel Washington, Ruth Negga, Viola Davis, and Naomie Harris nominated for the Best and Best Supporting Actor awards, the Academy seems to have taken a welcome step forward.
Several movies promoting diversity were also nominated, and in fact they almost monopolized the Adapted Screenplay category. The Documentary category was similarly filled with features on race, head-to-head with Life, Animated, which tells the story of an autistic child's communication development.
This year's nominations showcase a fascinating array of topics, and it seems that the Academy have really taken last year's criticisms to heart. And yet, we shouldn't be surprised about this. Mere days after the 2016 Oscar nominations were announced, an investigation into Academy membership was launched, as many people pinpointed this to be part of the problem. A statement on their official website read:
The Academy will supplement the traditional process in which current members sponsor new members by launching an ambitious, global campaign to identify and recruit qualified new members who represent greater diversity.
In an effort to "lead" the moviemaking industry to a brighter tomorrow, three new members were later inducted into the Academy. Now, this effort seems to have paid off, proving that change really can happen rapidly. But is it enough?
Hollywood's Representation Problem
Despite the obvious distinction between the 2017 Oscar nominations and those of 2016, people are making the point that the Academy — and Hollywood as a whole — still has far to go.
Former attorney April Reign, who created the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, explained to the LA Times that this year's nominations were simply too little, too late, and that it is vital to continue the movement she started.
"One year does not make up for over 80 years of underrepresentation of all genders, sexual orientations, races, abilities and First Nation status. #OscarsSoWhite is about the inclusion of all marginalized communities, both in front of and behind the camera, throughout the entertainment industry."
Arguing that the Oscars aren't more diverse this year, just "blacker", Reign pointed out that Latinx, Asians, and LGBT people are still drastically underrepresented, both in the Oscars and in Hollywood. And she's not wrong.
Many recent studies have highlighted some disturbing trends within mainstream media, from a deficit of female dialogue, to a lack of LGBT representation in movies. Asian representation in Hollywood has been a very contentious subject of late, thanks to whitewashing in movies such as the Oscar-nominated Doctor Strange, Aloha, and Ghost in the Shell, as all of which cast white actors in Asian or mixed race roles.
Despite the apparent inclusivity in the 2017 Oscar nominations, it seems there still much more work to be done. But if the Academy's decisions this year prove nothing else, it's that conversations about representation in Hollywood really do provoke change, not only in which films the Oscars showcase, but what kinds of movies get made. Here's hoping that this trend continues, offering up an even more diverse slate for the 2018 Oscars.
Tells us in the comments: Do you think enough has changed since last year's Oscars?