Oscars: White and male nominees continue to dominate | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 06.02.2020
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Oscars: White and male nominees continue to dominate

It is well known that there is a great imbalance between men and women in the Oscar nominations. But despite criticism, very little is happening to change that. DW looks at the numbers and the history.

Shortly before the Oscars are awarded the Oscar Academy traditionally invites its nominees to lunch. A group photo posted on Twitter showed all the attendees, but one thing clearly stood out: The vast majority of nominees are male. The photo has caused thousands of Twitter users to criticize the Academy for their nominations.

Not only Twitter users were annoyed. American media such as the New York Times also criticized the Academy after it announced the nominations for the 92nd Academy Awards. One online article for the New York Times read: "Very Male, Very White: Let's Talk About Those Oscar Nominations."

Actress and filmmaker Issa Rae, who announced the nominees on January 13, said with a serious face that she congratulated all the men after reading out the nominees in the "Best Direction" category. Contrary to what many had expected, neither Greta Gerwig, who recently directed a remake of Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women," nor any other female director appeared in the list.

The men included Todd Phillips ("Joker"), Martin Scorsese ("The Irishman"), Sam Mendes ("1917"), Quentin Tarantino ("Once Upon a Time in Hollywood") and Bong Joon Ho ("Parasite"). With Ho, who comes from South Korea, the category includes one Person of Color (PoC), another group that is sparsely represented in all categories. The protest movements #OscarsSoMale and #OscarsSoWhite remain valid in 2020.

Read more: What a history-making Oscar nomination reveals about gender equality in Hollywood

Imbalance in most categories

But what are the exact figures? If the performance categories are left out of the equation (the sexes compete separately here anyway), the total number of nominees is 193, of which almost 30% are female and over 70% male.

A look at the individual categories shows that the proportion of women in four categories is below 20%, and in Best Directing, Best Sound, Best Camera and Best Visual Effects, the number of female nominees is zero.

Men are in a minority in only three categories: Best Animated Short Film, Best Documentary Short Film and Best Costume Design. Yet even here, the gender mix is more balanced than skewed in favor of women.

Infografik Oscar-Nominierungen 2020 EN

Read more: Oscars: The winning factors to land among the best films

Women left out for decades

Certain categories remain particularly dominated by men. In the entire history of the Oscars — the first award ceremony took place in 1929 — the jury has nominated only five women for Best Director. The last one was Greta Gerwig in 2018. Only Kathryn Bigelow managed to win the Oscar in this category.

Two years ago, Rachel Morrison became the first and only woman to be nominated in the Best Camera category.

In 1997, Rachel Portman became the first woman to win the Oscar for Best Original Score and a year later Anne Dudley achieved the same. The Icelandic cellist and composer Hildur Guðnadóttir, who wrote the soundtrack for the big Oscar favorite "Joker", could be the third woman to win the category this year. Her sad cello sounds already impressed this year's Golden Globe jury.

Read more: 'Honeyland': Oscar buzz for heartfelt North Macedonian documentary

A historical high for women

As low as the percentage of women at the Oscars is at 30%, it is higher than at any time in Academy history.

Four years ago, the Oscar jury, which now has around 8,500 members, changed its structure to ensure more diversity in its ranks, taking on more women and people of color and growing by 35%. Half of the new members last year were women. Nevertheless, the jury that decides on the coveted Oscar trophies is still 68% male and 84% white.  

When it comes to nominations and awarding prizes to people of color, the Academy has become more progressive. Last year however, more people of color received awards than ever before. In 2017 half of the winners in the acting categories were black and in 2018 two people of color were honored as Best Supporting Actors.

Attention has already been turned to the lack of diversity in the fim industry after lead "Joker" actor Joaquin Phoenix criticized "systematic racism" in the film industry at the Bafta Awards just a few days ago.

With this is mind, it can be assumed that the Academy will have to face the criticism of #OscarsSoMale and #OscarsSoWhite once again this Sunday when it says "And the Oscar goes to..."

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