Oscars Countdown: Yes, progress is being made and yes, #OscarsSoWhite is still an issue
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Hollywood has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, with 2017 bringing the fall of Harvey Weinstein, the #MeToo and the Time’s Up movements, which challenged sexism and gendered power dynamics in the industry. Prior to even this however, and continuing today, Hollywood has been called out for its lack of minority representation, and the Academy particularly for being overwhelmingly white. The #OscarsSoWhite movement was started by activist and writer April Reign in 2015, after that year’s nominations featured no individuals of colour in the acting categories, despite the fact Selma came out that very year. 2016 was unfortunately, and after attention was drawn to the problem, more of the same. The next year finally saw a record number of nominees from diverse backgrounds, with Moonlight receiving eight nominations and winning Best Picture, beating La La Land; A gay, black coming-of-age story won against a film that featured no leading actors of colour. Change was happening. Today, Oscar nominations in the acting categories include Daniel Kaluuya, Denzel Washington, Mary J. Blige and Octavia Spencer, and Guillermo del Toro, Kumail Nanjiani, Jordan Peele, Yance Ford and Dee Rees gained recognition in the original screenplay, director, and other categories. It continues to look like Hollywood is embracing diversity. Many were quick to celebrate the diversity of nominees this year, undoubtedly because comparatively to previous years, it appeared an unprecedented win for minorities. And yes, this inclusion of traditionally marginalised groups into film should be applauded. However, some have gone as far as to ask whether the era of #OscarsSoWhite is over… No, it isn’t. Women of colour were still shut out of the Lead Actress category, despite nomination suggestions including Salma Hayek for her subtly powerful performance in Beatriz at Dinner, and Hong Chau for her performance in Downsizing. This reflects a broader, more worrying, and historic lack of Latinx and Asian nominations across all major categories, with the only notable exception being Coco for best Animated Feature. In excluding these groups from such a central industry celebration, Hollywood is signalling that despite their being more open to celebrating Black talent, stories, and experiences, they are not yet ready to let other people of colour take their seat at the table. There is still such a long way to go before underrepresented communities achieve a level footing with white individuals in Hollywood, both in front of and behind the camera. Just because progress is made does not mean that equality has been achieved; the Oscars, and the film industry, remain dominated by white males.
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