Why the Oscars are going out of style

It’s Oscars night. The red carpet is rolled out, and celebrities are slowly making their way into Dolby Theatre, sneaking tequila shots on the side with Guillermo to make the evening go by easier. The air is electric, and Jimmy Kimmel or James Corden is probably hosting, so we’re not expecting to laugh, but it will be fun, nonetheless. But behind the cheery appearance of this much anticipated night are the numerous allegations of gender bias and lack of racial inclusivity facing the Academy in recent years. With the Academy Award nominations for 2022 being released just over a week ago, I decided to take the opportunity to discuss the issues with this year’s nominations and the overall problematic nature of the awards.

The Oscars have often been called a white man’s game due to the severe lack of nominations for women and people of color. The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite even began trending just before awards season in 2015 as people started feeling fed up with the Academy’s lack of progress in diversifying nominations. The Best Director category, one of the more anticipated awards of the night, has historically been awarded to a man. The first woman was nominated in 1994, and since then, the category has scarcely seen a single female nomination each year. Many may remember Chloé Zhao, director of “Nomadland,” who won the award in 2020, as she was the first woman of color to receive it. The Oscars have once again followed their pattern with this year’s nominations, not to anyone’s surprise. Jane Campion is the only woman nominated under Best Director this year (coincidentally, she was the first woman ever to be nominated in the category). The other four directors are male.

To find the reason behind this racism and gender bias, we need look no further than the Academy itself. Academy Award voters, who pick both the nominations and the eventual winner, are 98 percent white and 68 percent male. When looking at these statistics, it is no wonder representation of women and people of color in the nominated films is so low; the Academy continues to be a historically white male organization. And though they have promised to work on diversifying their membership, I think it’s many years too late. It seems no matter how much backlash they receive and how much effort the Academy supposedly puts into expanding their membership and nominations to include more women and people of color, the Oscars never seem to escape their historically white male past.

The International Feature Film category is another aspect of the awards that has been on my mind for a few years. 2019 was an incredibly significant year in Oscar history, as “Parasite” received the Best International Feature Film award, a monumental victory because 57 out of 72 total wins have gone to European films within that category. On top of this, “Parasite” became the first non-English film ever to win Best Picture. This double victory (as well as a win for director Bong Joon Ho in the Best Director category) begs the question as to why non-English films are blocked from a Best Picture nomination. I began to question why the International Feature Film category even exists in the first place. The Oscars are marketed as the most prestigious and notable awards ceremony for films worldwide, not strictly in the United States. To assume that the best pictures of each year entirely consist of those written and released in the United States would be ignoring thousands of outstanding non-English films created across the globe. Moreover, actors in these non-English films are scarcely nominated in the categories for best supporting actor/actress. Take “Parasite” as an example. Not a single actor or actress was nominated for an award despite their outstanding performances; this is an issue made even more concerning given that “Parasite” was deemed the best movie of the year. These examples are a mere taste of the lack of diversity present within the Academy. Small victories such as a Korean film winning best picture may tide over viewers for a few years with the impression that change is coming. However, if this is the rate at which the Academy is moving to pursue true inclusivity, we have a long time to wait.

There is a classic and easily recognizable pattern within the nomination process for the Oscars: established white male candidates are nominated by established white male Academy members. And as for the 2022 nominations, it seems the pattern has yet to be broken. The Academy is taking the smallest of baby steps in diversifying its nominations; the nominees continue to be predominantly white and male. One of my main gripes with this year’s nominations is that “The Worst Person in the World,” a Norwegian language film, was snubbed from a Best Picture nomination. This was the best movie I watched released in 2021, and with its incredibly high ratings, this film deserved a spot in the coveted Best Picture category. Once again, an international film has been snubbed of Best Picture for no reason other than it is not in English. All in all, the Oscars continue to disappoint with this year’s round of nominations.

As viewership of the Oscars continues to tank, Hollywood celebrities such as Seth Rogen comment as to why no one cares to tune in anymore. In an interview with Insider, Rogen went on the record stating, “[M]aybe people just don’t care” about the awards anymore. After all, why should people care about big movie stars giving other big movie stars awards? So, Seth Rogen, maybe it is that people don’t care. Or, perhaps, it could be that the Academy has not stepped up in making the Oscars more diverse, inclusive and an overall better representation of films worldwide. Do better, Oscars, or we might all stop watching.

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