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Opinion: Why the Oscars Have Lost Their Prestige

Updated: Feb 4, 2020

By Priyanka Sarkhel (‘20)

It’s that time of the year again: awards season. It’s where celebrities dressed in expensive, outrageous outfits walk down the red carpets and onto the stage to offer their “call to awareness.” While they speak of a wide range of political topics, they unironically do nothing on their part to help resolve any of the said issues.

When the public refers to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, it is assumed that those who make up its judgment are held in the highest regard.

Those who make up the Academy are typically old, white men who recognize and hype up films made by other old, white men.

This is a phenomenon that has been going on since the beginning of time. When white men collectively agree that the work they create is good, it will be labeled as such no matter what objective view is taken.

Essentially, this is the realization that is beginning to kill award shows that once used to be incredibly popular.

Despite 2019 nominations being slightly more diverse than other years, 2020 nominations have regressed back to how they normally are: very male and very white. One exception is Parasite, directed by Bong-Joon Ho, a South Korean director and film-maker.

The reason why the Oscars no longer harbor the same excitement among the public is because it does not represent the public. With the prevalence of social media platforms, the communities that were underrepresented by media and culture are now using their voices and pushing their way into the mainstream. There are more stories to be told, but those stories are not recognized as award-worthy.

It says something about society when a film about a clown becoming a killer because he had mommy issues and people not being nice to him, who then blames his actions on mental illness, receives the most Oscar nominations out of all the movies nominated.

To put things into perspective, here’s a statistic: there have only been five female directors nominated for Best Director in the 91 years since the Oscars have been running. Only one out of those five women ever won an Oscar: Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker.

Greta Gerwig, the only female director nominated at the 2019 Oscars for Best Director, was not nominated this year for Little Women. As a result, the Best Director category was all male, all old, and all white, with the exception of Bong Joon-Ho.

This year, the only black woman nominated for Best Actress was Cynthia Erivo, and she played Harriet Tubman. While I’m not saying that she did a bad job in the movie Harriet, the fact that she was the only woman of color nominated for Best Actress for playing a slave is condescending and patronizing.

Films made by women like The Farewell, directed by Lulu Wang, and Hustlers, directed by Lorene Scafaria, were snubbed, and both of those films had unique stories that featured people of color.

Horror films like Us, directed by Jordan Peele, and Midsommar, directed by Ari Aster, were also snubbed, and speculators suggest the snubs were because of a stigma against the horror genre.

Us provided a unique thriller starring people of color, with Lupita Nyong'o at the helm, who delivered a haunting performance as two different characters.

She too was snubbed.

The message the Oscars are sending year after year by only nominating stories about straight, white people is that stories about people of color or LGBTQ+ people are not as notable or important enough to be recognized.

For those scratching their heads about why the Oscars are getting lower and lower ratings and viewers, maybe the length of the show or having a host aren’t the main problems.

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