By Indigo Jones
It’s that time of year again, awards season has come and gone! You’re probably either feeling elated or disappointed at who won the prestigious accolades, and rightly so as it is the highlight of the year for many film fanatics. 2020 became the first year that a foreign language film won Best Picture at the Oscars, as Parasite proved critics wrong in their predictions and instead bulldozed the competition. There were several firsts during the awards ceremony as Taika Waititi won Best Adapted Screenplay, becoming the first indigenous director to win an Oscar. Although the awards season demonstrated a new form of diversity, it could be argued that it still has plenty of room for more with a need for an increased number of BAME nominees as well as a need for more female nominees.
This year’s Academy Awards began with a short introduction by Steve Martin and Chris Rock, where they compared the first Oscars ceremony in 1929 and the current ceremony as Martin stated “Well, you know, Chris, think how much the Oscars have changed in the past 92 years[..] Back in 1929, there were no black acting nominees,” to which Rock replied, “Now, in 2020, we got one!”.
They raised important topics regarding the lack of diversity in the nominees and how it harks back to a time where society lacked diversity. This has been a continuous theme during the Oscars as in 2018 Steve Rose commented on the fact that “in its 90-year history, the Academy has still only nominated five women and five people of colour for best director”, and yet there hasn’t been many more in the last two years. The 2015 Oscars saw the start of the hashtag #OscarSoWhite created by April Reign, who decided to raise awareness of the issue surrounding the lack of racial diversity during the Oscars.
The awards season is a time for people to celebrate the world of film, but in today’s narcissistic society the focus has diverted from the movies and on to the red carpet. All genders are pitted against each other in an endless competition of who wore it best or who made the biggest statement. These A-listers are asked who are they wearing and are commended on their designer decisions and extra points go to those wearing vintage designer gowns. The media puts an added pressure as they do features on the best and worst dressed, which usually puts a large focus on the women’s outfits. As a result, this encourages the stereotype of this need for female confrontation, thus being compared rather than seen as equal. It creates a new form of pressure that was previously unseen thus distracting from the point of the award ceremonies.
This year Natalie Portman made the headlines based on her statement cape, which included embroidered names of all the female directors she believed were snubbed of best director nominations. This was a controversial topic surrounding the Oscars this year as many people were outraged as Greta Gerwig was snubbed of a nomination for best director for her adaptation of Little Women. Is this a result of the male directors being more deserving of the nominations, or whether it is a result of the unquestionably hegemonic nature of the film industry?
These ceremonies create a platform to discuss important topics such as #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter, where celebrities showcased their support of such campaigns through speeches, badges and specific coloured outfits. Although in recent years it seems that celebrities attempt to educate the masses through their speeches on topics they themselves are not fully educated on. It is vital that awareness is raised on important topics, but when they are feeding false information to their audiences it could result in further backlash. For example, this year celebrities have used their platform to discuss the climate change emergency, animal cruelty and politics, things that should be widely discussed but these stars act as if they are experts in those specific fields, yet they usually know as much as you or me, if not less. In his opening speech during the Golden Globes, Ricky Gervais exclaimed “So if you do win an award tonight, please don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech. You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg”. This echoes the thoughts of most of the general public as many people took to Twitter to discuss how they agreed with the statements.
Last year we saw an increase in both BAME and female nominees, but it is disappointing to see a decrease this year and therefore a step backwards. In previous years the Oscars have been criticised for whitewashing the ceremonies – in an article for the Hollywood Reporter, Gregg Kilday discussed that “prior to inviting the individuals of this new 2016 class, its voting membership was 92% White and 75% male”, which demonstrates why in past ceremonies there was unintentional bias towards white male nominees.
Steve Rose stated in article for The Guardian that as a result of this invitation for new members in 2016, the Academy slowly became more diverse as of its intake, “39% were women, and 30% were people of colour”. This demonstrates how we are closer to the desired goal to reach equality within the media, although will we ever truly receive equality? I guess for now we’ll just have to continue raising awareness and hope for a more diverse future. Perhaps Boong Joon-ho and his now award winning film, Parasite, will pave the way for future firsts in the world of film.