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Film

#oscarssowhite…again

#oscarssowhite started trending in 2016. It’s now 2020, and nothing seems to have changed, though this is a problem that goes far beyond the Oscars. It’s a problem that extends across all of the major film awards, and into Western society generally. 

The problem is our prioritisation of white, male voices. It’s clear that films telling stories beyond the white, male axis do well – Little Women, The Farewell, Parasite, Hustlers, Us, and Captain Marvel are all examples from 2019 and 2020. However, when it comes to awards, where films are declared prestigious and excellent (and let’s not deny how important the Oscars still are for a cinema-going audience), it seems that these films don’t get a look in. Some are lucky enough to receive a few nominations, and Parasite has had an astonishingly good run, but these feel like token gestures. 

It’s hard to tell where the problem starts, because it seems to exist at every level. Filmmakers are blamed for not making diverse films, but when the overwhelmingly white Oscars are determining what films are most likely to be greenlit, that’s a problem. Diverse films struggle to exist when Hollywood wants to follow the successful, Oscar-winning, white male paradigm. And this, of course, makes it even harder for the former when it comes to awards season. 

Another problem is that Oscars voters are 68% male, and 84% white. They’re far less likely to go and see films like Little Women, for example, and it’s already a point of contention that Oscars voters… don’t actually watch all of the films. So films outside of the white male perspective, at another level, are not privileged a chance. 

What does this mean? Well, it means that what we’re essentially being told is that white, male voices are the ones with the most value. These are the ones worthy of honour and prestige, while films from any other voice are lucky to be nominated. And in a time of great social division, like right now, I’m not so sure that films about white violence should be the ones receiving honours and distinctions. The abuse that Arthur Fleck receives in Joker, which drives him to violence and starting a mass riot, is almost nothing compared to the abuse that women and minorities receive on a daily basis; and yet if a woman were to retaliate in the same way, the reaction would be much different. And – dare I say it – do we really need another male gangster movie? You know, the kind that sideline women and focus on white men? 

I’m not saying that these films are necessarily bad. I just think that we’ve been hearing from white men since the inception of the Oscars, and that it’s time to celebrate other people and other voices.

As cinemagoers, we should be listening to a multiplicity of voices and learning to broaden our horizons. Fostering empathy starts with listening to stories that aren’t our own. It’s time to celebrate great cinema – all great cinema. 

 

Illustration: Kat Cassidy