Guess who’s not coming to the Oscars
On Sunday, the Super Bowl of awards shows arrives via the 83rd Academy Awards. Speculation about this year’s Oscar race, of course, started months ago: Which films are worthy, who might be nominated, what will Helena Bonham Carter wear?
It’s an annual ritual that marries speculation and buzz with griping and age-old criticisms about the Academy’s advancements and shortcomings.
Last year, Katheryn Bigelow won top awards for her war drama The Hurt Locker—becoming the first woman to nab the Best Picture and Best Director honors. Meanwhile Mo’Nique took home the Best Supporting Actress statue for her harrowing turn in Precious, becoming just the third African-American woman to win the award—and only the 13th African-American to take home an acting award, period.
Those particular wins, some speculated, signaled the Academy was finally making strides in regards to diversity.
Instead, this year’s batch of nominees just offered many of the same longstanding disappointments.
There are virtually no people of color on the ballot (unless you count Biutiful’s Javier Bardem or True Grit’s Hailee Steinfeld, the latter whom is of Caucasian, Asian and African-American descent).
There are also no women in the Best Director category. Winter’s Bone nabbed Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay nominations but, curiously, director Debra Granik apparently had nothing to do with the film’s success.
Egregious oversights, yes, but there also weren’t that many major motion films in wide release this year that actually featured minorities in major roles or women taking on the film’s top jobs.
In short, one can’t necessarily blame the Academy—at least not in full—for failing to nominate women and people of color if women and people of color aren’t involved in the kind of big release or indie-darling films that actually get noticed—and heavily marketed.
No, the problem is more widespread and deeply systematic; it’s a reflection of an industry that tends to honor, congratulate and reward a homogenous set of surefire moneymakers and crowd pleasers.
The pressing issue here is not necessarily the Academy Awards—the issue here is with the industry that feeds the awards-show cycle and the subsidiary industries that have sprung up out of that: the relentless paparazzi, the never-ending “entertainment TV” cycle, the determined emphasis on campaigns to secure wins and, of course, the exhaustive red-carpet fashion coverage.
Judging by what one sees in magazines and on TV, what Sandra Bullock wore (and what we eventually learned about her lousy, now ex-husband Jesse James) is just as—if not more—important than the award she received for The Blind Side.
Indeed, it seems that Halle Berry’s on-again, off-again custody fight with ex Gabriel Aubrey is, by this point, more newsworthy than her Oscar win for Monster’s Ball.
Who cares that Berry has barely had a decent film role since? Then again, at least the undeniably gorgeous actress does get regular hefty paychecks via cash cows such as Catwoman and X Men: The Last Stand. Surely Mo’Nique, who’s only appeared in one film since 2009’s Precious, wouldn’t mind a few more job offers.
Likewise, Bigelow’s history-making win didn’t exactly result in a flood of new opportunities. So far, the powers that be that sign off on deals (and provide the deep, cash-lined pockets to see them to fruition) have only rewarded the director with two projects—one of which was a made-for-TV flick. Just a guess: Bigelow’s ex-husband James Cameron will never worry about a shortage of work prospects.
The Academy Awards certainly aren’t perfect, but it’s time to stop blaming a relatively small group of voters and, instead, focus on the bigger industry-driven problem that creates and promotes such a lack of diversity in the first place.