The 95th Academy Awards are coming up soon and for movie lovers like myself this is a very exciting time, but every year I am led to question the list of nominees. Time and time again, the Academy fails to celebrate diversity. Whether that’s the lack of nominations for women outside of the leading and supporting actress categories, or failing to celebrate the talent of people of colour and instead having the lists of nominees predominantly white. It’s not uncommon to see a list of all male or all white nominees, and the Academy fails to see the issue with this. The categories such as directing, writing, and other categories outside of acting tend to be very dominated by men. The only categories that typically have female representation are costume design, makeup and hairstyling, and production design. These being the only categories where female talents are celebrated insinuates that the only talent women have that is worthy of praise includes very stereotypical female activities like makeup and clothes. Every year when the list of nominees comes out I hope that there will be some change made, yet every year I’m met with disappointment. 

If we look at the history of the Academy Award nominees the numbers are quite shocking. In the 95 years that the Oscars have been occurring, only seven women have been nominated for best director, with Jane Campion being nominated twice making it eight nominations for women overall. The first nomination went to Lina Wertmüller in 1977, 48 years after the first Academy Awards ceremony. Out of this list, three have won. Two of those wins happened in the 2020’s so up until 2020 only one woman had won for best director. This lack of representation of worthy female directors is unacceptable and yet the Academy continues to allow it. Directing isn’t the only category that fails to represent women, but thankfully none of the other non-acting categories are quite as bad as it. Just last year, in the writing categories for best original and adapted screenplay only 19% of the nominees were female. Categories for other technical talents such as cinematography, editing, sound, and visual effects tend to have mostly male nominees. The lack of representation of women isn’t the only place where the Academy fails. They also are notorious for having a lack of representation of people of colour among their lists of nominees. Just back in 2015, every single slot in all four acting categories was filled with a white actor. Unfortunately, this isn’t an uncommon occurrence for the Academy. Even if the categories aren’t completely filled with white actors, they tend to hold the majority of spots. As recent as 2020, all of the acting nominations were held by white actors except for Cynthia Erivo who was nominated for Harriet (2019). Since the first Academy Awards ceremony, only 36 actors of colour have been awarded an Oscar for acting, and 344 white actors have won. 

Some actors who have been victims of this lack of diversity have actually publicly called out the Academy for their mistakes. In 1988, as Eddie Murphy was presenting the award for best picture he recalled a phone call that he had with his manager when he was asked to present. At first he wanted to refuse to attend because of the Academy’s failure to award Black actors, but instead chose to take the opportunity to publicly call out the Academy during the show. Even though this happened almost 40 years ago, his speech is still relevant today. Another instance of an actor shading the Academy is Natalie Portman constantly sticking up for the female directors who are snubbed of nominations. Natalie Portman has made it very known that she is unhappy with the lack of acknowledgment of talented female directors. In 2020, her dress included embroidery of the names of all of the female directors from that year that she felt were deserving of a best director nominee that unfortunately were unrecognized by the Academy. In 2018 at the Golden Globes, as Natalie Portman was presenting the award for best director, she stated “and here are the all male nominees.” She has stated that she wanted to bring attention to this issue without disrespecting the nominees. While the Golden Globe and the Academy Award nominees are not chosen by the same people, her statement is still very relevant. 

This year’s nominees unfortunately do not reflect much progress being made in terms of representation. All of the non-acting categories reflect the same patterns that have been happening the past 95 years. It will come as no surprise to anyone that the best director category includes zero women. The biggest snub of this category in my opinion is Charlotte Wells for Aftersun (2022). They also failed to nominate women in the writing categories. There are 16 men and only 2 women nominated. Just like in the past, the technical categories are dominated by men while women are only fairly represented in the categories that deal with styling and design. These patterns are getting frustrating. The non-acting categories aren’t the only ones this year that suffer from a lack of diversity. The majority of the acting nominations are taken up by white actors. There has been some outcry about this, specifically about Black actors that were very clearly robbed of a nomination. Two acting performances this year that were snubbed by the Academy were Viola Davis in The Woman King (2022) and Danielle Deadwyler in Till (2022). These were two standout performances this year, and people are upset that the Academy failed to recognize them and instead nominated some other performances that the majority of people have deemed less deserving. An instance where the Academy actually surprised audiences was with the nomination of Stephanie Hsu for Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022). Hsu gave one of the most memorable performances of the year, and has gone unrecognized by many other award shows and people were nervous that she wasn’t going to get the nomination that she deserved. Thankfully, the Academy chose to nominate her, surprising many because of the Academy’s tendency to overlook actors of colour. 

In the past few years, some progressions have been made when you look at the winners in some of the major categories. In 2018, The Shape of Water (2017) won best picture which stars a mute character who uses sign language to communicate. In 2022, CODA (2021) won best picture which features deaf characters and actors. These were major historical moments for the deaf community because of the representation of ASL in a major motion picture. Another moment of some progress being made was when Moonlight (2016) won for best picture. This film features Black and LGBT characters and this win was historic. Unfortunately due to the fault of the Academy, this win will forever be tainted by the incident surrounding the announcement of the winners when they announced La La Land (2016) as the best picture winner by accident and then announced their mistake. The Parasite (2019) win at the 2020 Oscars was another important moment because it was the first non-English language film to win best picture. These slight progressions that have been made are extremely important and I hope that the Academy will continue to recognize their past faults and move in the right direction.

About the Author

Hi! I'm Megan and I'm a fourth year English major. This is my first year writing for WEW and I'm really excited about it! Some of my favourite things to do in my free time are watching movies, reading, and baking. My favourite movies are La La Land (2016) and Little Women (2019) and my favourite book is The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. I'm looking forward to sharing my ideas with everyone and also learning about new topics from the other writers!