Oscars 2020 makes small strides in diversity

by Aero Cavalier / Staff Reporter

Bong Joon-ho accepts awards at the 2020 Oscars. Photo courtesy of variety.com.

In 2016, The Oscars came under attack when #OscarsSoWhite started trending on Twitter, and the lack of diversity in Hollywood entered America’s collective consciousness. The trend was originally started because all 20 actors nominated for a best lead or supporting actor role were white, although both “Creed” (2015) and “Straight Outta Compton” (2015) — which both had many actors who were people of color (POC) — were two of the most critically acclaimed films of the prior year. Four years later, many feel as though little has changed.

“Every year we have one [film] that’s diverse, like this year it was ‘Parasite’ and last year it was ‘Roma,” said Andrea Ruiz, a sophomore sustainability studies major. “It’ll be one diverse winner every year and they’ll be like ‘wow, look, that’s diversity’. I feel like we’re kind of at a plateau.”

Although there were some diverse performers at the awards show, including Janelle Monae, who openly stated during her performance, “I am so proud to be standing here as a black, queer artist,” one of the biggest issues was the lack of diversity among the nominees.

“I think they tried to make up for lacking diversity by putting people of color singing and dancing,” said Ruiz. “To me, they felt like they were just using them to put on a show.”

“They pick and choose and they try to create diversity, but I feel like it’s not really showing as much,” said Kate Saez, a sophomore sustainability studies major.

Similar to the 2016 Oscars, all of the nominated lead and supporting actors were white, as well as all but one of the actresses.

“We want to see people that look like us represented in the nominees,” said Ruiz, who is a Latina student.

Cynthia Erivo, who played the titular Harriet Tubman in “Harriet,” was the only person of color to be nominated. Erivo lost out to Renée Zellweger.

“They should stop making jokes about having no black nominees and start actually having black nominees,” said Saez. “They shouldn’t be the punchline.”

Some insiders found there to be other setbacks as well, including “Little Women” director Greta Gerwig not being nominated for best director despite her film being nominated for best picture. Media outlet OZY discussed how Gerwig’s snub at the Oscars (and the 2019 Golden Globes) was part of a bigger problem: in 2017, only four percent of the highest-grossing directors of the decade were women.

However, the awards did still have some record-breaking events. “Parasite” director Bong Joon-ho brought home four awards: Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, Best International Feature Film and the coveted Best Picture. This marked the first-ever Academy Award for South Korea and the first Best Picture award for a non-English film. Prior to Joon-ho’s wins, South Korea as a country has never had a director, actor, or screenwriter win an Academy Award — even in the Best Foreign Feature Film category.

“We never write to represent our country,” said Joon-ho, while receiving his first award of the night. “But this is our very first Oscar to South Korea.”

“I feel like Korean films are really underrated in The Academy in America,” said Saez. “I think it’s really good for him to win four different awards.”

“They voted for that movie because it was the best picture and not just because they were trying to be diverse,” said Ruiz. “That was one of the few instances where they were recognizing diversity without an agenda behind it.”

Alongside Bong Joon-ho’s surprising wins, Taika Waititi also made history. The director of “Jojo Rabbit” won the award for Best Adapted Screenplay, making him the first indigenous person to ever win an Oscar. Between “Parasite” and “Jojo Rabbit” making strides, it seems like the Oscars are looking up for multicultural artists.

“I think it’s a really historic decision and does bode well for future directors,” said Kip Soucie, a film enthusiast. “And hopefully they get rid of the foreign film category altogether because this showed the uselessness of it.”

Alongside those, some smaller projects received wins, such as the short documentary “Learning How to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl),”  a film about adolescent girls in Kabul, Afghanistan and “Hair Love,” written and directed by former NFL player Matthew Cherry.

Hollywood celebrities and fans alike share the sentiment of wanting to see even more progressive change: “Hair Love’s” producer Karen Rupert Toliver and Cherry used their speech to advocate for more representation, Best Supporting Oscar winner Brad Pitt made comments about the senate’s acquittal of President Trump, and Eímear Noone, the first female conductor to perform at the Oscars, dedicated her performance to all of the aspiring female artists.

“I think since [2016] there has been a lot of movies by and about people of color and that’s something that in the past couple years I’ve been really impressed with and really happy about,” said Soucie.



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