Awards season is just around the corner and everyone is excited, to say the least. The Oscars are the biggest event celebrating the film industry and this year marks their 95th anniversary. The nominations, including Avatar: The Way of Water, The Fabelmans, Everything Everywhere All At Once and Elvis, have created an atmosphere of suspense and utter interest about this year’s winners.
Oscars and Discrimination
Academy officials have stated numerous times that they want the event ‘to be fun and celebratory’. Despite this, the Oscars have always had a political undertone, whether in relation to discriminatory attitudes towards the nominations, or statements made by award-winners. This has resulted in people deciding to boycott them over the years. Celebrities who have received an award have addressed multiple socio-political issues like abortion, equal pay, LGBTQ+ rights and racism, often making history.
In 2016, the critical year Leonardo DiCaprio won the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance in The Revenant, he made a speech about the threat of climate change. At the same time, film-maker Spike Lee and actress Jana Pinkett Smith did not attend the event due to the all-white actor nominations for the second year in a row, protesting the lack of diversity.
The problem of discrimination has repeatedly risen to the surface, with the 1973 boycottage and Best Actor award denial from Marlon Brando being one of the most memorable political moments of the Oscars. Instead of denying the award himself, he boycotted the event and chose Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather to represent him in an attempt to raise awareness regarding the portrayal and treatment of Native Americans in the film industry, along with the happenings at Wounded Knee.
Should the Oscars be separated from political matters and be considered only for their celebration of films?
The debate whether or not such events should be separated from social and political matters has been going on for some time now and it does not seem to end any time soon. It is argued by many that the Academy Awards should remain a celebration of cinema, without controversies and political agendas. Many have claimed they have gotten ‘too political’ over the years and have stopped watching, with audition rates dropping dramatically in the past few years.
However, the messages sent across from celebrities and people boycotting the event have had an impact. With complaints over discrimination in the nomination process, it has become more and more inclusive with each year. The most recent win in this department happened last year, when Ariana DeBose became the first openly queer woman of colour to receive an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in West Side Story.
Social change should not be limited to issues regarding the awards show, as its separation from its social and political implications is difficult, if not impossible. People in the spotlight shed light and motivate the public to be proactive with these global problems and challenges. The focus is on making the awards a celebration of the film industry, where people feel safe, included and equal, and the procedures of the Academy officials remain impartial.
Written by Despina Zacharopoulou
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