By Charles Vivian
When the 2020 Oscar nominations were announced, the trending 2015 hashtag #OscarsSoWhite was doing the rounds once again. This campaign started in 2015 and 2016 when every single person nominated in the acting categories was white. After a few years where it seemed like the academy was making progress, with three out of four of last year’s acting wins going to non-white actors and LGBT+ films like Moonlight winning Best Picture, the Oscars appear to have fallen back into bad habits.
Here’s my breakdown of some of the 2020 Best Picture nominations:
The Joker: straight white cisgender man with face paint gets violent.
The Irishmen: straight white cisgender men organise violence.
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood: straight white cisgender men get violent (with a flame thrower at the end).
1917: literally just straight white cisgender men doing violence.
JoJo Rabbit: smol straight white cisgender man in world of violence enacted by straight white cisgender men doing violence.
Ford vs Ferrari: straight white cisgender men drive around in cars that blow up.
Marriage Story: shouty straight white cisgender man, but at least he doesn’t do violence and Scarlett Johansson is a Queen.
And then, there was Little Women and Parasite, the light at the end of the very white, very straight, very cis, very male tunnel: Little Women: perfect in every way — if you criticise this film it is a hate crime and you will be jailed.
Parasite: pHeNoMeNaL — and so deserving of all the awards it won that night!!!
Honestly, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from watching the Best Picture nominations year after year is that when you put straight white men in charge, it gets violent AF. What is it with the Oscars’ obsession with white male violence? All I’m saying is, if RuPaul had snatched Joaquin’s wig and given him a make-over, there would’ve been no need to shoot the television host at the end...
One of the most striking examples of inequality is the gender imbalance that has been prominent throughout the Academy’s 92 year stint. In the past ten years, 49 out of 50 nominations for Best Director have been men. How Greta Gerwig was shut out of the Best Director category for the absolute masterpiece that was Little Women I simply do not know. That film made me feel things that completely upturned the deep-rooted mechanisms of emotional repression hammered into me by five years at an all-boys boarding school. I cried at the discovery of the saintly Florence Pugh (who played Amy March), and at Saoirse Ronan’s flawless embodiment of Jo March. I cried at Timothée Chalamet’s Laurie, and his perfect jawline stealing my heart once again. I cried at the fact that I was watching something where women’s stories were being so deftly represented and beautifully handled. I swear I even cried at that bit when Amy spilt her popcorn on Christmas Day because I was so much of an emo- tional wreck. And don’t even get me started on Beth...
The only thing that I remember from the single Film Studies lecture I attended last semester was that FILM USED TO BE A FEMALE DOMINATED INDUSTRY. All of a sudden the men want to do it, and then they get all the jobs, all the money, and all the nominations?
Nineteen of the acting nominations this year were white. There was no recognition for The Farewell (a Chinese tragicomedy about a family who hides a grandmother’s cancer diagnosis from her), with notable snubs including actress Awkwafina and director Lulu Wang, Jennifer Lopez’s performance in black comedy Hustlers, and Lupita Nyong’o’s multifaceted performance in Jordan Peele’s Us. I really don’t think that I can fall for the whole “it’s a coincidence” mantra any longer.
I am honestly so glad that Parasite won the awards it did that night, taking home Best Foreign Language Film, Best Original Screenplay, Best Picture, with Bong Joon-ho also being awarded Best Director. It is a phenomenal film and its recognition was so well deserved. I only hope that the Oscars can up their game in the future. There is no denying the influence that the ceremony has on defining quality and assigning importance to a whole variety of different films and different narratives. That is why it is so important that diversity is recognised at these awards — if diversity isn’t recognised, diversity isn’t valued. I think that we should be part of the conversation, and we shouldn’t have to be forced to create our own.