Another fail for the Academy

The 2020 Oscars lack diversity in all areas, creating concern for progress in film

Illustration by Gabrielle Funk

Another awards season is approaching, and another failure to recognize women in Hollywood is at our doorsteps.

The 2020 Oscar nominations were announced on Jan. 13, but I’ve needed some time to gather my thoughts and frustration with the Academy for snubbing women in film yet again.

The Academy still – in 2020 – has failed to represent diversity in its nomination practices, despite the fact that, since 2016, the number of voting Members of Colour has doubled. Although things started to change for the better four years ago, this year’s nominations are still indicative of major shortcomings in the Academy.

Of the 20 actors nominated this year, only one, Cynthia Erivo, is a Person of Colour, and no women have been nominated for “Best Director.”

Critics have focused in particular on the fact that director Greta Gerwig did not receive a nomination for Little Women. Actor Issa Rae commented after she announced the nominees, saying, “Congratulations to those men.” Rae later expressed at the Television Critics Association press tour that she is tired of having the same conversation and expects more from the Academy.

Today, women make up 32 per cent of the Academy’s members (up from 25 per cent in 2015). While diversity has improved overall, the Academy’s entire voting body only casts ballots for who takes home an Oscar, not who gets the nomination. Recently, TIME magazine requested a report on the gender breakdown for the directors’ branch, and the Academy declined to share. I have my bets that if we start breaking down the gender and racial makeup of each sector the Academy has, we’ll uncover haunting truths.

The film industry is working its way back from decades of systemic sexism. Historically, there have been fewer opportunities for women to direct films than men, which has led to fewer women in those roles. And, of course, society consistently views and portrays women as less capable than men. This casts a dark cloud over female directors, making it difficult for society to accept the success or genius of a woman.

While I agree we need to put pressure on the Academy, it goes so much further. We need to change the conversation around women and their ability to succeed. How long can we sit by and watch another Quentin Tarantino film (with an almost all-white, male cast) take home a handful of awards?

So, after different tweet trends like 2016’s #OscarsSoWhite and #TimesUp, what will this year’s Oscars hold for advocates at the awards?

I bet this year we’ll see a winning female actor use her platform to call out systemic sexism in society and the Academy. Many viewers will patiently wait to watch the brave soul who uses their limited minutes to speak up on gender or racial inequality, rather than accept an award they competed for and earned fairly.

We’ll see what Feb. 9 brings. You’ll find me eating my popcorn and rolling my eyes while the Oscars are handed out to yet another male-dominated group. I look forward to a time where women and People of Colour have no need to use acceptance speeches for anything but thank yous.

Michelle Karlenzig is a first-year Creative Communications student at Red River College. She is passionate about gender equality and Indigenous rights. By storytelling through journalism, she hopes to make a positive impact on marginalized groups and human rights.

Published in Volume 74, Number 16 of The Uniter (January 30, 2020)

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