Opinion: The Oscars are white and elitist


Illustration by Mckenna Greenleaf Faulk

Hannah Renton

After almost a hundred years, the Oscars seem to be as sought-after as ever.

With so many talented actors, directors and writers having one or a few under their belt, there is no wonder why many people in the film industry want to join this elite club.

But does the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences really know what it’s talking about?

Arguments over whether the nominations were fair or if a popular writer got snubbed are common every year.

But in recent years, it seems that the Academy has been failing more and more when it comes to nominating actually good and innovated films from directors and writers who are not white and male, and this year, it’s even more evident than ever.

Looking at the nominations for some of the big slots like best picture, best director and best writer, I am simply disappointed by the lack of representation on many levels.

The lack of artistic representation is disappointing. Yes, the films nominated are good films, but there are so many more that were far better, and they deserved the nomination.

An easy example to look at is any film made by production company A24 this year. While A24 is much younger and smaller among the more well-known production companies, they have produced some of the best work I’ve seen in the last decade, and critics and audiences agree. All the stories they’ve released are original, exciting and diverse. Films like “The Farewell,” “Midsommar,” and “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” are all easily worthy of nominations from award shows, especially the Oscars.

But of course, nothing.

The Academy would rather play it safe and stick to the same four old, white guys who have been making basically the same movies over and over again for the last 10 years, just replacing one white male lead with another.

Does the rich white man really need another pat on the back by his rich friends?

Which brings me to the lack of representation in all the major categories — the most abhorrent part of the Oscars.

During the last few award seasons, under-represented groups have begun to speak out even more about the systemic racism and misogyny within the film industry. But it’s not like these groups are just now speaking out — they have been.

It’s only now they are finally gaining their deserved attention from the mainstream, and while some people have taken the time to really change and hire more diverse and multicultural actors, directors and workers for their films, the progress is not fast enough and quite embarrassing.

The fact that in 92 years, only one woman and not a single black person has received the best director award is astonishing.

It seems that if you are a person from any sort of marginalized group, the only real chance you have at receiving an Oscar is if you worked on costumes or music for a film, and even among all people, it seems the Academy favors the same old dogs that have been in the game forever.

Men like Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg have received multiple nominations and wins within all the major categories. While there have been times they are deserved, some of the films they’ve been nominated for honestly lacked originality and felt more like “Oscar bait” than an actual, genuine piece of art.

So if another white man barely has a chance to get a nomination because they are not a well-respected member of the industry, how do you think every other person who isn’t white or male feels?

But this isn’t just the case for the Oscars.

While I believe they are the worst, all the award shows and the industry in general have practically put up a “You’re Not Welcome” sign for people of color.

And it shouldn’t be about giving these awards to these people as handouts or special treatment; it should be about actually acknowledging the legitimate work that they have done and showing our appreciation for it because it’s not like there is nothing to pick from.

Hundreds of people from different countries, cultures, races and ethnicities are writing, directing, acting and producing breathtaking work that deserves to be seen by a wider audience. Because of how this industry works, an Oscar nomination can almost certainly ensure a bigger audience than without one.

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences needs to stop pretending they care about these issues and actually make a change.

I’m tired of seeing a “whitewashed” portrayal of the film industry. It’s redundant, tired, and as we’ve seen from the dwindling views of the Oscars live broadcast, people are not here for it.