The Oscars 2020 reminded me all too well of the feeling you have when your grandma gives you a strange scarf for your birthday. It’s not what you wanted, but the gesture was nice. All you can do is hope that next year gets better, right?
While there have been a lot of loud, feminist moments, the Oscars ultimately continue to snuff women out of many categories, most notably “Best Director.” After 92 years, only five women have been nominated for the category and only one, Kathryn Bigelow, has won. Greta Gerwig, who is one of these five women, did not receive a nomination for her Best Picture nominated movie, “Little Women,” at the Oscars 2020. This was disappointing, but not shocking. She and many other creative female directors, such as Lulu Wang and Lorene Scafaria, were shut out from the Academy’s nomination this year, following suit with the majority of previous Oscars. The most vocalized discrepancy with the Oscars nominations lies with the Best Director category — but the prioritization of men does not stop there.
It’s not surprising that, in general, the majority of movies nominated for Best Picture have male-centered themes and storylines. Nominees for this year, such as “1917,” “The Irishman,” “Ford v Ferrari” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” follow suit as the central ideas (war, cars, the mafia and Quentin Tarantino) are all male-dominated. Of the 92 Best Picture winners, only 14 winners have a story that follows a female lead. The Oscar nominations often portray the subconscious values of viewers and the sexist limitations in Hollywood. It’s not that movies such as “The Irishman” or “Ford v Ferrari” weren’t noteworthy, but it’s important to recognize their advantage over movies like “Little Women” due to the fact that they follow the normative style of a “winning” movie: male-based with male leads.
In a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Amy Pascal, producer of “Little Women,” discussed the lack of male presence in the public screenings of “Little Women.” “I don’t think that (men) came to the screenings in droves, let me put it that way,” Pascal said. “…and I’m not sure when they got their DVDs that they watched them.” Obviously, this was disconcerting considering a majority of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voting membership is held by men, with only 32 percent of the members being women in 2019. “It’s a different bias,” Pascal said. “(Voters think), these kinds of stories are important to me, and these kinds of stories are less important to me.” From this, it’s important to note how the gender reference within the title “Little Women” alone would discourage a male audience.
Instead of being viewed solely as a good movie, the gender reference in “Little Women” transforms it into a “girl” movie. For most movies, without knowing the plot, the sole fact of having a female lead makes it a “girl” movie. Typically, when a movie has a male lead, it is not labeled a “boy” movie. It is simply a movie. The distinction between movies and “girl” movies originates from centuries of patriarchal influence and suppression of female cultural works. I know I can resonate with stories told by men about men, so to my male counterparts who refuse to see movies like “Little Women” because they are “girly,” I urge you to give it a try. At heart, all these movies are stories about people, not just women or men, and the human experience — despite our differences — is something we can all relate to.
Despite the lack of recognition women received with regard to the awards, the Oscars desperately tried to display their support of women and feminist movements. From Brie Larson, Gal Gadot and Sigourney Weaver declaring that “all women are superheroes” to the first female conductor leading the Oscars orchestra for the Best Original Score segment, the Oscars seemed to be all about women. While the gestures were appreciated, recognizing women are talented isn’t the same as rewarding women for their talent. Instead of just recognizing that women aren’t nominated for Best Director, maybe it’s time to call out the social and systematic reasons for this and directly challenge the Academy’s decisions. This is not to diminish many beautiful moments that occurred, such as Hildur Guðnadóttir’s acceptance speech or Natalie Portman’s homage to female directors, but only to encourage further progress and not to forget the work that needs to be done.
Camilla Munaco can be reached at email@example.com.