Inclusion & The Oscars

Will Smith and Chris Rock may have stolen the media’s attention from this year’s Oscars, but don’t let that distract you from the list of achievements from stars in marginalized communities.

Award shows are known for their history of being white-washed and male dominant. Insider lists some scary statistics, including the fact that 89% of the nominations in the last decade have gone to white people. Another shocking truth the article reveals is that in 2015, only five women had ever been nominated for best director.

The Oscars were on blast with the hashtag “Oscarssowhite” that surfaced the internet in 2015. This viral hashtag brought the Oscars’ problematic background to the media’s attention by calling out the Oscars for the lack of people of color nominated. That year, all twenty of the major actor nominations were given to white actors.

Continuing on with the timeline of the Oscars, in 2020 we started to see significant action being made towards inclusion. According to Britannica, there was an increase of inclusivity on the voting board, with “45% women, 36% underrepresented ethnic/racial communities, and 49% international from 68 countries.” Insider notes the groundbreaking achievement that “for the first time, there were more wins given to an underrepresented group than there were to white people”, as there were more awards given to Asian people than to white people. However, there was still only one nominated woman of color. 

Fast forward to 2022, and we’re making progress. We still have a long way to go, but the Oscars gave us a lot to celebrate. Ariana Debose was the first ever Afro-Latina Oscar winner for her performance in West Side Story, and her acceptance was followed by a touching speech. This was also the first time a queer woman of color has won an Oscar. In her heartwarming acceptance, she said, “You see an openly queer woman of color Afro-Latina who found her strength in life through art, and that is what I believe we’re here to celebrate. So to anybody who has ever questioned your identity or you find yourself living in the grey spaces, I promise you this, there is indeed a place for us.” Another first was a deaf man winning an Oscar, making history. Troy Kutsor made leaps and bounds for the deaf community with his role in “Coda,” In addition to his award, the film won Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. 

Other notable accomplishments:

  • Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson dedicated his Oscar to marginalized communities. 
  • Jane Campion became the third woman to win the Best Director Award.
  • Yvett Marino is the first Latina producer ever to have won an Academy Award with “Encanto’s” win for Best Animated Feature. Not to mention, the film contains an assortment of diverse characters, such as Mirabel, the first Disney lead character to wear glasses. Not to mention the film is centered around authentic Colombian culture. 
  • The filmThe Queen of Basketball,” about Lusia Harris, the only woman to be drafted into the NBA, won in the category for Best Short Subject Documentary. This is a victory for women’s sports. 
Image by Unsplash

The Oscar hosts did not shy away from talking about the topic of inclusion, as Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes, and Regina Hall called out Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Sykes, being openly queer, said “We’re going to have a great night tonight. And for you people in Florida, we’re going to have a gay night.” The bill was passed in early March, banning classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity. Schumer and Hall followed up the comment, by shouting “Gay, Gay, Gay!” They also took a dig at the wage gap, as Schumer pronounced, “this year the academy hired three women to host because it’s cheaper than hiring one man.” 

The night was a success for diversitys, but there is still work to be done. While acknowledging the wins for minorities, it is still imperative that we advocate for change, and keep pushing for more diversity in award shows. The #Oscarssowhite was a wake up call — it is time to change the system. With all the films being made to include diverse actors, there is still a lack of acknowledgement from the Academy. Hollywood has failed to acknowledge marginalized groups in the past, favoring not only white actors, but musicians, models, and producers for years and years. 

What can we, as viewers do? First, it’s important to support films that showcase a diverse cast. The hashtag #Oscarssowhite demonstrates how individuals can make a difference through the power of the internet, and it holds the Academy accountable. As long as we are tuning into these award shows and giving them our views, we must criticize and question their lack of diverse nominations. Representation is crucial in award shows, and we need to be talking about it. Attempting to add more diversity to the Oscars is just a start, as we need to tackle the root of the issue, which is the racism and sexism in Hollywood as a whole. More and more movies are being made to tell the stories of those whose voices have been silenced in the past, and give marginalized communities a platform. Representation matters. It is important to show audiences that these accomplishments are possible, no matter who you are. It is equally important for white audiences to view these films and immerse themselves into a culture different than their own. The Oscars should empower all types of individuals, not just straight, cis, white, able bodied men. 

Although there were many steps made in the right direction at this year’s Oscars, it should not have taken this long. Ultimately, the Oscars, and award shows as a whole, need to do better. People of color deserve better. Women of color deserve better. Marginalized communities deserve better. 

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