Academy Awards begins to embrace diversity within Hollywood

By EMILY MELVIN
On April 28, 2021

Photo courtesy of Fair Use, Wikipedia

The 93rd Academy Awards aired Sunday, April 15 on ABC. The award ceremony was held in its traditional location, the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, as well as a second location at Union Station. Attendance was slimmer than usual at each location, as the guests were spaced out at small tables. However, they were able to be maskless because of safety precautions the celebrity attendees took by getting vaccinated and doing their part to keep safe beforehand.

Before the celebrities made their way down their respective red carpets, the 93rd Academy Awards already broke history by having the most diverse nominations. A large amount of the nominations belonged to underrepresented groups: women, Black people and people of color. This diversity was seen in both acting and behind the scenes roles. However, there still was a lack in queer representation.

Highlights of the night include the various wins earned by Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland,” receiving Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress. 

Chloé Zhao became the first Asian American woman and only the second woman ever to win Best Director. Her acceptance speech was both powerful and humbling. She recalled her life growing up in China and her relationship with her father:

“We would memorize classic Chinese poems and texts, and we would recite it together and try to finish each other’s sentences,” she said, before sharing one phrase that has stuck with her. “People at birth are inherently good… This is for anyone who has the faith and the courage to hold onto the goodness in themselves and to hold onto the goodness in each other.”

Additionally, Youn Yuh-jung won Best Supporting Actress for “Minari,” Daniel Kaluuya won Best Supporting Actor for “Judas and the Black Messiah,” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom'' won for Best Makeup and Hairstyling, which is a groundbreaking win. “Ma Rainey’s'' hair team consisted of Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson, the first Black woman to win the Oscar, alongside Spanish makeup artist Sergio Lopez-Rivera.

Even with the victories shared in less represented communities, this doesn’t hide how flawed it is that in 93 years, this is only the first time we are seeing more inclusive representation. It is sad and frustrating to realize that Zhao is only the second woman to win the Oscar for Best Director; however, we should not let our anger towards “Big Hollywood” and our world’s political state take away from the well-deserved victories for women. 

It is a step in the right direction, and we can only hope that all future prestigious award shows will highlight the talented diversity within the world of art and entertainment. 

The event overall shined as the most diverse and inclusive year yet; however, viewers fell to another disappointment in the Academy at its odd, uncomfortable and distasteful finale. 

Instead of presenting the Oscar for Best Picture last, which has been the standard for the past forty years, the show ended with Best Actress - Frances McDormand, “Nomadland” and Best Actor - Anthony Hopkins, “The Father” - which was a complete shock to many. 

It seemed almost impossible to predict that any actor other than the late Chadwick Boseman, nominated for his role in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” would win Best Actor. The event was set up with the notion that the night would end with a posthumous win for Boseman. 

However, the night was awkwardly wrapped with 2020 recipient Joaquin Phoenix announcing Hopkins’ win, followed by just a small smile and cut to the credits, as Hopkins was not even there to accept the award. 

It felt heart-wrenching to end on such a disappointing, uncomfortable moment. Responses to the finale consisted of shock and “what the hecks” across many living rooms and social media platforms. It was anti-climatic, to say the least.

Clearly, the Academy is still flawed and has questionable judgement, and it was disappointing to see the year of growth ended on such a whitewashed note. We can only hope that the Academy improves in the coming years, but we should learn to not make our expectations too high, unfortunately.

 

emelvin@ramapo.edu

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