Last week the media was abuzz with news that the Oscars totally snubbed black artists. “The Oscar for Best Caucasian Goes To” screamed Oakland Tribune’s headline (and we thought it was so great, we appropriated it for this article). The Global News offered the pun: “Black actors, directors shut out of race.” There were also many others. And while it’s true that the entire cast and crew of the powerful drama Selma was overlooked, something else—not surprisingly—caught our eye here at SheRa Mag: the lack of female representation in the Oscar nominations.
Let’s look at the stats. Out of the eight films nominated for Best Picture, only one (Selma) was directed by a woman. But out of those competing for the Best Director gong, none are women. None of the five films nominated for Best Animation were directed by a woman. Best Cinematographer? No women. Film Editing? Only one woman (Sandra Adair for Boyhood). Documentary Feature and Shorts? A little bit better with two of the five nominated films in each category directed by women (Laura Poitras for the excellent CitizenFour and Rory Kennedy for Last Days in Vietnam in the Feature category). In the writing categories, not one woman has been nominated in either the Best Adapted or Best Original Screenplay categories. Even in the Foreign Film category, none of the nominated films have been directed by women. The only category in which us girls seem to excel is Best Costume, with four out of the five nominations going to women.
The question begets answering: Are the films being written, directed, or edited by women not being nominated OR are there just way more men in Hollywood—and the film industry in general? The Washington Post, commenting on the lack of diversity in this year’s nominations, points out that author Gillian Flynn, who adapted her novel Gone Girl for the screen (a film that was critically acclaimed), was snubbed in the writing category. And the biggest shock was that director Ava DuVernay, who became the first African-American woman ever nominated in the Best Director category at this year’s Golden Globes, was also—controversially—overlooked by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Another hot contender, Angelina Jolie, was snubbed for her directorial debut, Unbroken.
The Telegraph’s cheekily titled And the Oscar winner is…a white, middle-aged man attacks the Academy’s lack of representation in all aspects: race, gender, and age. Their handy graph tells us that only 25% of those nominated are women, the average age of the nominees is 51.6 years, and out of 127 total people nominated, a whopping 118 are white. Now, compare that to who makes up the Academy: 23% are female, the average age is 62, and 94% are white. And as reported in Variety, “past reports on the makeup of the Academy’s membership have exposed a disturbing level of racial and demographic homogeneity”: a Los Angeles Times article from 2012 revealed that Oscar voters were 94% white, 77% male, and 86% above the age of 50. Is this all a coincidence? I don’t think so.
But here’s the clincher: the Academy’s relatively new president (appointed last year) is an African-American woman! But Cheryl Boone Isaacs defends the Academy. As reported in the South China Morning Post (which also points out this year’s Oscars is the worst year for diversity since 1998), Isaacs says that the Academy is in fact “committed to seeking out diversity of voice and opinion.”
“In the last two years, we’ve made greater strides than we ever have in the past toward becoming a more diverse and inclusive organization through admitting new members and more inclusive classes of members. And, personally, I would love to see and look forward to [seeing] a greater cultural diversity among all our nominees in all of our categories,” Boone Isaacs said.
The devil’s advocate in me is screaming: “But maybe the best films last year were made by males,” but I know that this is not necessarily true—and that this is a bigger issue. Hollywood is still a boys’ club and there are on average more men making, writing, directing, and editing films than women. And this is the culture. It is unfortunately mirrored in who is working at the Academy and in who has the big bucks to finance films. Until the culture starts significantly changing, we can’t expect a great deal of diversity in the award nominations. But at least we can make strides for these changes to occur. And this year that should have manifested itself in Ava DuVernay being nominated for Best Director.
Title image source: washingtonpost.com