Award Shows and Diversity (or Lack Thereof)

todayFebruary 8, 2020 11 1

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By Brittany Anderson
Assistant Web Content Manager

It’s that time of year again: award show season. Despite a few taking place later on in the year, the first couple months of the new decade have been (or will be) spattered with some of the biggest awards shows: the Oscars, Golden Globes, BAFTAs and Screen Actors Guild Awards, to name a few.

Whether you keep up with the films, the actors or condemn them all together, there’s no escaping the inevitable drama— no pun intended— that will saturate your social media feeds.

When looking at the upcoming Oscars in particular, there’s something else that’s inescapable: the painful lack of diversity. Only two of the 20 actors nominated are people of color, and no female directors were nominated.

You would think that 2015’s viral hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, pioneered by April Reign and still relevant five years later, would push the Academy to make greater strides for diversity in their nominations.

Many pop-culture fanatics (and the average moviegoer with a pulse) tend to take these shortcomings personally— Jordan Peele, Greta Gerwig and Lupita Nyong’o being some of the most notable recent snubs that come to mind.

As a viewer, it feels unfair to walk away from a compelling film experience and not see it get decent acclaim.

When we have this wealth of talent in front of and behind the camera, and they are still not recognized by what is considered the pinnacle in the industry, then we need to take a closer examination of who the Academy membership is, what the voting process is and see where we can make systemic change. I believe in a meritocracy; cast a wide net, nominate the most talented and most qualified individuals, and the best person should win. But if you aren’t viewing the films, then you cannot be sure that you have actually seen the most talented and qualified.

April Reign for Variety

And let’s not forget this cringe-worthy moment from the 2017 Oscars. Whether you read too much into the incident or not, it’s definitely a numbing irony of how the work by people of color oftentimes gets treated facetiously.

It’s common sense that representation is important in all aspects of life, but it’s especially important within the entertainment industry— an industry that holds an insane amount of power over our lives, whether we want it to or not.

Having underrepresented communities lifted up on a larger scale through some of the highest and most prestigious channels shouldn’t even be a question.

Sure, the awards themselves are arbitrary, but they’ve undoubtedly been given a sense of importance in our culture. So, yes: while awards are not necessarily indicative of someone’s success, they do serve as a symbol of their hard work being adequately recognized and celebrated.

Maybe on a less serious note, but it’s also just plain boring to watch this pattern continue. The repetitiveness of the same kinds of films and actors being nominated and winning is hard to take seriously— award shows are supposed to be fun to watch, right?

This is not to put down award shows as a whole— they’re practically an entire species, so it isn’t fair to judge them all based on the faults of a few.

The Tony Awards, for example, is arguably one of the most diverse awards shows we see each year. The stage (and their Tony’s) has truly set some high standards by making massive strides in diversity that the screen can’t fully relate to.

Pop culture phenomenons like award shows seem to bring out the worst of the worst in us— they’ll tear people apart before they bring people together. There’s something about seeing our favorite film or celebrity being talked about, and with that comes some deep-rooted opinions and a sense of pride when they win or hurt when they lose (or aren’t even being considered).

But more important than your personal love or hatred of “Joker” (which has a whopping 11 nominations at this year’s Oscars) is being aware of what you’re consuming and how you react to it.

Watch what you want. Like what you like. Hate what you hate. But don’t ignore the fact that there area number of communities that need our collective support so they can get the recognition they deserve, and continue serving as a special and important source of inspiration.

No one is asking for special treatment: they’re asking for treatment at all.

Featured image by Brittany Anderson via Canva.

Written by: Piper Blake

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