Snubbed by the Oscars and the Culture of Sexism
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Snubbed by the Oscars and the Culture of Sexism

The Oscars is perceived to be a ceremonial celebration of cinematic excellence and creativity. The prestige, fame, and honuor associated with the Oscars create an environment of competition among filmmakers, especially in Hollywood. However, this so-called prestigious award is only for the recognition and validation of “male honour”. To begin with, the Oscars is a man. The trophy of the world’s most renowned and acknowledged award in the field of cinema resembles a man, which exposes the patriarchal domination of international institutions. It must be understood that the statue being a “man” is not the only problem. It is also a “golden” statue, which signifies the successful commodification of talent under a crony capitalist system. In other words, the Oscars trophy is a reminder of how elitism and power of the wealthy go hand in hand with male privilege. Therefore, the symbolic identity of the Oscars is rooted in the history of gender bias and male supremacy.

Only 17% of Oscar nominees since 1929 have been women, with less than 2% of those nominees being women of colour, according to recent research. Since 1929, less than 2% of Best Director nominees at the Oscars have been women, with only eight out of 476 nominations. Half of these nominations occurred after 2010. Overall, women make up just 17% of all Oscar nominees since 1929, and less than 2% of nominees were women of colour. It is ironic how the West which staunchly propagates “white feminism” all over the world, refuses to credit or award women cutting across all sections of the film industry for their work and contributions.

The reality is that for decades women were denied access to filmmaking. They lacked financial as well as cultural support to make films due to their assigned gender roles in society. The women who were offered roles in films were cast as supporting characters for the male lead and objectified for visual pleasure. However, with time, women made considerable progress in filmmaking and acting. The agency of women characters in films expanded along with a rise in the number of women producers, writers and directors. Unfortunately, the Oscars have failed to evolve with time. Its underlying values which are embedded in patriarchy are averse to the feminist revolution in cinema. The case of “merit” as a criterion does not apply here. For instance, the 2020 study by Kenneth Grout and Owen Eagan from Emerson College titled “Oscar is a Man: Sexism and the Academy Awards” discovered that movies with male lead actors are nearly twice as likely to win the Best Picture category at the Academy Awards. This case study can be related to another statistical analysis. In 2022, women made up only one-third of eligible Oscar voters. In the same year, less than 30% of non-acting nominees at the Academy Awards were female. It is not a representation for the sake of it as some critics claim. Women need to make double the efforts of men to be even considered for nomination; let alone winning it. Even if they get nominated, the probability of them winning is less likely compared to their male counterparts.

The case study of Barbie being snubbed this year at the Oscars is apt to examine this scenario. The popular satirical scene from Barbie in which Ken thinks being a man is enough to be eligible for becoming a doctor sums up the attitude of the Oscars. It is because in the Oscars as well, the achievements of women are overlooked if they are in direct competition with men in a particular category. For men, their gender identity is their “unique selling point” in addition to their work, thereby reinforcing Ken’s mentality of how being a man is enough. The Oscars stand in favour of the very power of patriarchy that Barbie staunchly exposed.

Despite directing the highest-grossing film of 2023 and biggest film directed by a woman, which earned $1.45 billion worldwide, beating the much anticipated Christopher Nolan directorial Oppenheimer, Margot Robbie, and Greta Gerwig were refused nominations for Best Actress and Best Director categories respectively at the Oscars. However, Ryan Gosling on the other hand made it to the Best Actor nominations. Barbie did make it to the Best Picture nominations, only to be defeated by Oppenheimer. The highest-grossing film which ignited the much-needed feminist discourse in cinema and became a symbol of satirical dissent against patriarchy, was not even considered worthy of nominations for Best Director and Best Actress, let alone winning it. In the Best Picture category, it lost to a film that was all about men celebrating the invention of an atomic bomb- a weapon of mass destruction. A parallel can also be drawn with consumer behaviour here. When consumers visit the market to purchase a product, the brand value of a product is often enough of an attraction and reason to be the first choice.

Similarly in this case, is it really about merit or the “Brand Nolan” and male privilege which automatically made Oppenheimer a winner? Barbie did not just register high box office numbers. It received appreciation and positive responses from both audiences and critics. However, for the sexist Academy Awards, this was not “Kenough”


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