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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

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Are the Oscar nominations genuine?


The time of the year that is everyone’s favorite time to argue, where traditional thoughts are tested: the Oscars.

With film, this is the best documentation of society— especially the American one.

Over the years, this ceremony has become the most prestigious in the movie-making industry. Across the nearly nine decades of the Oscars, just like every other system birthed in the United States, women and minorities have not only been underrepresented, but also misrepresented.

The 2016 Academy Awards had no minorities nominated for any of the most popular awards besides Mexican director Alejandro G. Iñárritu for best director with “The Revenant.” From the smaller categories, “Straight Outta Compton” was nominated for best screenplay.

There are several reasons why the Oscars seem so exclusive to white people.

Imagine being a minority in the year that the Oscars started: 1929. The social construct in 1929 was more rigid and exclusive. The opportunity to excel in society was pigeon-holed away from people of color. Minorities’ ways of life were to merely survive.

Whether it was to get jobs, homes, excel in society or even walk on the same street as a white man, creating films about what they knew life to be, let alone have it be considered for an award, seemed to not be an option. That, along with the way the Oscar voters are composed, made it almost impossible to be seen.

Most Oscar voters, even now, are old, white men. This particular demographic has a history of being racist. However, there’s also a psychological aspect.

When we consume art, we are more susceptible to appreciate and be attracted to things that represent us and diminish things we think are vile. 

It doesn’t always boil down to race, however. Since there are more white people in the film industry than black, the white people are set to produce more movies. However, this doesn’t explain why the opportunities are supplemented to one group.

In 88 years, black people have been nominated a total of 134 times across all categories, not including this year. About 95% of Oscar nominations went to white professionals in the film industry in the 20 century. 

Of those nominations, black people have won only 32 times, and 18 have been movies or roles that portray stereotypical black archetypes or black biopics like Ray, Glory,  Gone With the Wind and 12 Years a Slave.

After the 2016 Academy Awards, probably the most anti-inclusive award ceremony in a “post racial America,” this year’s list of nominees seems to be the complete opposite, with people of color being nominated in some of the most prestigious categories.

Is this more of an opportunity to do some damage control? Or is it a sincere change of heart for how the viewing and perception of black films are taken?

Even in the face of skepticism, the craftsmanship from black people in the film industry has made a notable step. With all of the films, actors and people behind the scenes, Viola Davis and Denzel Washington for Fences, Barry Jenkins who directed Moonlight, or Kimberly Steward who produced Manchester by the Sea, all contributed to the progression of representation. 

The quality of black direction, cinematography, acting, producing, writing and music has certainly risen this year.

The journey for representation among the elites and powers was taken with great stride. The next step is for the nominations to turn into meaningful wins that will continue to help the goal be reached and create more opportunities for other oppressed groups.

Opinion columnist Dana Jones is a print journalism junior and can be reached at [email protected]

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