The Oscars Know They’re So White and Don’t Really Care

The Oscars nominations have been out for 2 weeks now and I am still upset. Almost everywhere you look, there is some kind of discussion going on around the lack of equality and diversity paired with calls to fix it. This year’s biggest award show in the film industry is no exception.

The Oscars have come under fire for their lack of diversity on numerous occasions, and soon after the 2020 Nominations were released, the Academy Awards made headlines for all the wrong reasons once again. This year’s nominations seem to be part two of the #OscarsSoWhite fiasco in 2015, with nearly all of the nominations being given to white, male-led, male-directed, and male-focused films.

In Best Picture, undoubtedly the most prestigious award of the night, six out of nine of the nominated movies were directed by white males, and with the exception of Marriage Story, were about and led by white males. Little Women, also nominated, was directed by Greta Gerwig, who takes up the only woman-directed spot in the category. The two diverse options in the category are Jojo Rabbit, a Nazi comedy directed by and starring Taika Waititi, and Parasite, a Korean film directed by Bong Joon-Ho.

There is a similar pattern across the other major categories. Here’s a rundown in case you haven’t gotten around to looking up nominations: Best Director? All male. Yes, really. It was a huge relief to read Bong Joon-Ho’s name at the end of this list, making him the only non-white male nominee. The Best Actor and Best Actress categories have a cap of five nominations max, and feature four white people and one token person of color each.

The nominations are so white, cis-gendered, and male-lead this year that every nomination for a marginalized individual or film about one just feels overwhelmingly tokenised. In fact, as if to prove that they know just how bad the nominations were, the Academy made ample effort to appear inclusive. The nominations were announced by John Cho and Issa Rae, following a list of A-list presenters including Lin-Manuel Miranda, Anthony Ramos, Zazie Beetz, Rami Malek, Regina King, and more. While this is of course a great lineup of presenters and a step-up from previous years, it still feels so wrong to have them presenting such non-diverse nominations.

In a perfect world, having diversity at the Oscars means going beyond nominating non-white or male individuals, but also means seeing films about diverse stories and people represented in the nominations. Films like Us, Harriet, The Farewell, and Dolemite Is My Name were snubbed in the major categories. Social media rightly exploded when Lupita Nyong’o missed out on a nomination for her performance in Us. She showed impressive range in playing two different characters giving us something extra we didn’t really see in some performances nominated for Best Actress. The Farewell tells an artfully crafted story about family dynamics, cultural displacement and explores traditions in Chinese culture that would have made a great addition to the Best Picture list.

In all fairness, the Oscars are trying to make progress. In 2012, 94 percent of the voters (5,700) were white, according to the Los Angeles Times. In the last two years, the Oscars have invited over 1,500 more members into the Academy with voting rights. This opens up the opportunity for more diverse voters to be a part of the voting process. And it is true that diverse directors have recently won major awards. While this is progress, it’s not enough–it’s too slow and not enough. If the Oscars want to maintain ratings, and quite frankly, respect, they need to start producing a show that celebrates stories and people from all walks of life.

Emily Rivero is a junior at Florida International University studying Creative Writing and Film Studies. She is an aspiring screenwriter who subscribes to too many streaming services and wishes Netflix would stop asking if she’s “still watching.”