Despite the current political climate, a host of white men picked up Academy Awards handed out by women and people of color
Oscars so white—and male.
The first Academy Awards to take place in the post-Harvey Weinstein era attempted to strike a progressive note. The disgraced movie mogul didn’t attend for the first time in years after being expelled from the Academy, while actor Casey Affleck—under a similar cloud—decided not to present an award. In their place was a rainbow colored cast of Hollywood celebs to perform and present.
There was the nod to combating ageism, with Jodie Foster, Jane Fonda, Faye Dunaway, Rita Moreno and the 93-year-old Eva Marie Saint handing out awards—the latter after a moving allude to her late husband; there was a place for immigrants, with the Kenyan-born Lupita Nyong’o and Pakistani Kumail Nanjiani center stage and advocating for Dreamers; there was also a spot for the courageous women who helped take down Weinstein by bringing their stories public (Salma Hayek and Ashley Judd.)
"Some of my favorite movies are by straight white dudes, about straight white dudes. Now you can watch my movies and relate to me. It's not that hard. I've been doing it my whole life." Kumail Nanjiani at #oscars.
— Monica Hesse (@MonicaHesse) March 5, 2018
Common and Andra Day sung “Stand Up For Something” from the “marshall” soundtrack in a bid to encourage political activism. Native American actor Wes Studi presented a tribute to veterans. Chilean actress Daniela Vega made history by becoming the first out transgender person to present on Hollywood’s starriest night and even a robot, BB-8 from Star Wars, got some time on stage.
And yet, the positions of honor (i.e. the winner) kept going to (mostly white) men. Indeed, for over an hour from the time Sam Rockwell picked up his Best Supporting Actor nod for the white working class masterpiece “Three Billboards in Ebbing, Missouri” until Allison Janney received her statuette for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the white working class masterpiece “I, Tonya,” not a single current female winner in 2018 spoke. There was one women winner in the interregnum, Best Makeup and Hairstyle champ Lucy Sibbick, who shared her award with David Malinowski and Kazuhiro Tsuki.
While on the surface Hollywood has really gotten the #metoo and #TimesUp movements, there are still very few women winning and then there are several men accused of rape and or domestic abuse, soooo so much fucking work has to be done.
— Melissa Silverstein (@melsil) March 5, 2018
And even though the victorious picture for Best Foreign Film “A Fantastic Women” was inspired by the life of Vega, it was director Sebastián Lelio who received the award on behalf of cast and crew. (Sandra Bullock pointedly noted that just one “trailblazing woman” was nominated for Best Cinematography, which eventually went to Roger Deakins for “Bladerunner.”)
The discrepancy between winners and presenters didn’t go unnoticed. Many Twitter wags saltily criticized the very un-diverse list of winners and noted the bizarre power dynamic of having women and people of color hand out prestigious, possibly career-making, awards to a group of white men.
Huge credit to the geniuses who thought it would be a good idea to have many many admired actors of color give awards to only white dudes
— Heidi N Moore (@moorehn) March 5, 2018
The Academy, which has made attempts to diversify its membership since the #OscarsSoWhite controversy in 2015, seems to have taken note. “Are the Oscars too Black now?” asked presenter Tiffany Haddish in a comedic aside before handing out the award for best documentary short. “There are so many white people to come tonight. Tons back there.”
Observers say that many of the awards went to the favorites, so the Academy would have been aware of the optics in advance. “The biggest surprise may be that there have been no surprises,” says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore, noting that Sam Rockwell for best supporting actor, “Phantom Thread” for best design and “Dunkirk” for the sound editing and mixing nod were all heavily predicted beforehand. “As pretty much the odds on, well deserved favorites won in every category.”
But in a fitting end, Best Actress winner Frances McDormand got all the female nominees, successful or not, to stand up during her speech. “We all have stories to tell and projects we need to get financed,” she said, urging Hollywood power brokers to contact them.
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