Oscars reflect the power of women in sea of change

As movie theaters across the nation were shut down and productions were halted, delayed or shuttered altogether for the majority of 2020, the 93rd Academy Awards followed the old thespian saying, “the show must go on.”

After being pushed back for two months, the Oscars awards ceremony swapped out a virtual ceremony for a restrictive small in-person event that was held on April 26 at two different locations: The Dolby Theatre and Union Station in Los Angeles.

Despite facing the issue of decreasing viewership, seeing a record low according to ABC, the Oscars were able to address another key issue that resonated with the event in the past: lack of diversity in nominees.

This year’s Oscars saw 70 women of color and nine in their respective categories; hitting a record number of competitive wins by women with 17 wins by 15 women along with some making Oscars history.

Oscar® nominees Chloé Zhao and Joshua James Richards arrive on the red carpet of The 93rd Oscars® at Union Station in Los Angeles, CA on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Credit: Matt Petit / A.M.P.A.S.
Oscar® nominees Chloé Zhao and Joshua James Richards arrive on the red carpet of The 93rd Oscars® at Union Station in Los Angeles, CA on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Credit: Matt Petit / A.M.P.A.S.

The Oscars marked the first for many things in various categories such as the first time more than one woman was nominated for Best Director: Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman and Chloe Zhao for Nomandland.

Zhao would go on to become the first woman of color to be awarded for Best Director, seventh to be nominated and/or won in the category.

Yuh-Jung Youn became the first Korean actor to win an Oscar through her role in the film Minari, becoming the second Asian actress to win an acting award in Oscars history. The first was Miyoshi Umeki who won Best Supporting Actress for the 1958 film, ‘Sayonara.’

Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson, part of the hair and makeup team for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, are the first Black stylists to win in the category’s 40-year history.

In her onstage speech, Neal dedicates part of her success of the award to Black Americans throughout history and paved the way for future generations to have opportunities they were denied in the past.

“I also stand here as Jamika and I break this glass ceiling with so much excitement for our future,” Neal said. “Because I can picture Black trans women standing up here and Asian sisters and our Latino sisters and indigenous women. And I know that one day it won’t be unusual or groundbreaking; it will just be normal.”

“Moving forward, that’s why I’m excited for the future,” Wilson said, “because these conversations are taking place…We should be excited about what is to come.”

Singer Songwriter H.E.R.
Oscar® nominee H.E.R. arrives on the red carpet of The 93rd Oscars® at Union Station in Los Angeles, CA on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Credit: Matt Petit / A.M.P.A.S.

Another category also saw history take place as H.E.R. became the first filipino female and second Black woman to win Best Original Song.

“You know musicians, filmmakers, I believe we have an opportunity and a responsibility,” she said, “to tell the truth and to write history the way it was and how it connects us to today and what we see going on in the world.”

With changes being made in Hollywood history, the success of the Oscars take on diversifying its nominations and winners has prompted conversations of changes on how organizations handle their events during awards season.

For the Golden Globes, however, promoting action on reform was too little, too late.

In recent months, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has faced criticism for lack of diversity in regards to its members and nomination process for the Golden Globes.

NBC Universal issued a statement on May 10 announcing they will not broadcast the Golden Globes in 2022.

“We continue to believe that HFPA is committed to reform,” the statement read. “However, change of this magnitude takes time and work and we feel strongly that HFPA needs time to do it right.”

Oscar® nominee Celeste Waite arrives on the red carpet of The 93rd Oscars® at Union Station in Los Angeles, CA on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Credit: Matt Petit / A.M.P.A.S.
Oscar® nominee Celeste Waite arrives on the red carpet of The 93rd Oscars® at Union Station in Los Angeles, CA on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Credit: Matt Petit / A.M.P.A.S.

In addition, over 100 publicity firms including Netflix, Amazon and Warner Media – which each had a strong presence during awards season – pulled out from events hosted by the HFPA and stated they won’t work with the organization until diversity changes are made.

Actors such as Scarlett Johansson and Tom Cruise have also expressed the problematic inner workings of the organization by stating news conferences were “borderline sexual harassment” and returning trophies that were won in previous Golden Globes.

“Like many in our industry, we’ve been waiting for today’s announcement in the hope that you would acknowledge the breadth of issues facing the HFPA and provide a clear roadmap for change,” Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos stated in a letter to the HFPA Leadership Committee, according to Deadline.

A February article from the Los Angeles Times reported that out of the 87 members in the organization, none of the members are Black journalists. During the Golden Globes telecast on Feb. 28, the HFPA announced motions to increase diversity such as upgrading the number of members and hiring diversity consultants after the previous ones quit the role in protest.

The Golden Globes serve as a platform during awards season to promote and predict nominees in the run for Oscar Gold. With it off the airwaves, HFPA will have less of an impact on the 2022 season.

Since NBC’s decision to pull next year’s Golden Globes award ceremony off the airwaves, the HFPA has released a statement:

“Regardless of the next air date of the Golden Globes, implementing transformational changes as quickly- and as thoughtfully- as possible remains the top priority for our organization. We invite our partners in the industry to the top table with us on the systemic reform that is long overdue, both in our organization as well as within the industry at large.”

Featured Image: Oscar® nominee Andra Day arrives on the red carpet of The 93rd Oscars® at Union Station in Los Angeles, CA on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Credit: Matt Petit / A.M.P.A.S.