Written by Niyati Kanotra, a grade 12 student.
The feminist movement was started back in the 19th century to challenge the systemic inequalities faced by women on a daily basis. This movement has left a mark on the world with women being uplifted after centuries of being dominated by the male members of their society. Though women still are victims of patriarchy to date, they continue to fight for equal rights in various fields. We all are aware of the Academy Awards (also known as The Oscars – we told it simply here, in case you need to know) which started in the year 1929. It is a night celebrating art and creating history with iconic movies being awarded and actors being applauded for their staggering performances. However, do we fail to notice the history of male dominance in the nominations? Do we fail to notice male hosts joking about how females don’t have a single nomination in the Best Director category?
Let’s go back in time.
It has been over 90 years since the first Oscars aired and since then we have only seen four women being nominated in the category of best director. There are over 19 categories in the Oscars out of which 1,387 awards have been received by men and 327 by women. Does this mean that women lack talent? No. You must have heard about the movie “Little women” directed by Greta Gerwig. That movie broke the box office and won appreciation from everyone around the world. It also received nominations in over six categories.
What’s shocking is that Great Gerwig, the director who made this masterpiece, herself did not get a nomination under the best director category even after receiving a tremendous amount of appreciation for her movie. This act just shows how much the Oscars have been sexist when it comes to placing their nominees. This is the exact reason why we need a movement like feminism to bring about a change. Yes, there will be people contradicting how Oscars are not biased when it comes to giving nominees, then how did Parasite become the only non- English film to ever win an Oscar for best film in 90 years? How did the academy take 90 years to give an award to a foreign film? This does show us patterns of biased and sexist decisions.
Apart from the feminist movement, we have another movement that is helping us break this cycle of discrimination: the Black Lives Matter Movement. Lurie, an Israeli-American director said, “The truth is, those academy members will watch movies that deal with the heroism of the African-American community or the history of blacks, like ‘12 Years a Slave,’ because that interests them, what doesn’t interest them is the current black experience or black culture. A movie like ‘Straight Outta Compton’ doesn’t stand a chance”.
Back in the Oscars of 2016, the nominees only consisted of white actors and actresses in the top four categories, resulting in the resurgence of the social media hashtag #OscarsSoWhite and a bevy of concerns about diversity in Hollywood. After an outpour of raging opinions and the academy being called out for its racist decisions, we saw a change in the pattern by seeing movies like Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation” receiving a euphoric response. Movies like Birth (which is based on the true story of the Nat Turner-led slave uprising in 1831 Virginia) won the audience award and the grand jury prize for the U.S. dramatic competition. The Weeknd received a nomination in the category of music for his track “Earned it”, and he was quoted saying, “ I’m glad this has sparked a conversation … it needed to happen. And good for the academy for trying to make the new changes.” We have seen people like Jordan Peele ( who was first African American) win the award for Best Writing (Original Screenplay) and the nomination overall, for a debut film named “Get out” in the year 2017. We have also seen John Ridley becoming the first African-American writer to have written a film that won Best Picture.
Yes, we do see a change in the nomination pattern of the Academy and how it has impacted the growth of the industry as a whole. Colour and gender never really matter when talent, passion and desire play a supreme role in the diversity of this field. We hope to continue seeing people of colour and different genders come out with flying colours and make about a difference in the society for the times to come.