And the Oscar goes to…

The importance of diversity and representation in entertainment

Sireen Abayazid, Staff Writer

After seeing the nominations for the 97th Academy Awards, many hearts, including my own, were overjoyed by the diverse set of films on their list. Years have passed of the Academy nominating generic, boy meets girl movies, but the Oscars have finally started to live up to expectations and demands of diversity in their nominations.

Bao, nominated for Best Animated Short Film, tells the story of an overbearing Chinese mother attempting to raise her son in Toronto, Canada while still allowing him to keep his traditional values.

However, her son attempts to let go of his culture to be better accepted by his white peers, but learns that although his heritage made him different from his friends, those differences are what made him who he was. Domee Shi’s use of stunning animation and several nods to Chinese culture throughout the story does an exceptional job of telling this tale.

Another movie with a diverse set of characters was Black Panther, which was nominated for seven Academy Awards, and continues to make history by being the first superhero
movie to be nominated for Best Picture.

“We know what it’s like to be told that there’s not a stage for you to be featured on” actor from the movie Chadwick Boseman said in the acceptance speech at the SAG Awards.

“We knew that we had something special that we wanted to give the world…that we could create a world that exemplified a world that we wanted to see.”

Seeing one’s nativity displayed in a subtle yet positive way is one of the most powerful kind of representation, and anyone who worked to bring the nation of Wakanda to life helped create a positive cultural influence for young and old black people in all corners of the world.

But however ethnically diverse this year’s nominations were, the nominations strongly lacked any female representation, especially in the Best Director category where not a single woman was nominated. The film industry has a lack of diversity as it is, but the fact that only 4 of the top 100 movies of last year had female directors proves that is an issue that Hollywood doesn’t seem to be making much effort to solve.

Asians and women of color were also painfully underrepresented. Only three of the ten nominated actresses were women of color and only one of the nominated films, Bao, had an Asian lead character. Many, including myself, were hoping to see Crazy Rich Asians on the list of nominees, but its stunning cinematography, costumes, and breathtaking soundtrack didn’t make the cut.

The Academy has made progress towards diversity, but women and people of color should not be and are not being nominated in order to “keep a balance” and have only been nominated based on their merit. This means that although Hollywood has seen an increase in diversity, the merit of these actors is not increasing, proving that actors of color are still not given the same opportunities.

It seems that although the Academy seemingly “fixed” their diversity problem, they still continue to disappoint many in the film industry. Last June, the Academy invited 928 people from all sectors of the film industry to become members.

Among these new members were hundreds of people of color and some actors who actively fought alongside the #Oscars. TooWhite campaign in 2016. This diverse new set of members gives hope that the Oscars will continue to make their nominations more diverse and inclusive.