Controversy surrounding diversity in the awards season is not new, of course. Echoing debates from 2015’s awards, this year’s #OscarsSoWhite backlash sees many celebs boycotting the Oscars in response to apparent snubs for films including Creed and Straight Outta Compton. It becomes more noticeable each year that the nominations reflect the interests of the majority white (93%), male (76%) Academy voters. And in terms of gender, the (under) representation of women in awards-nominated films remains a glaring issue. While Brooklyn, Room, Carol and arguably Mad Max all tell stories centred around women, they are largely tales of female struggle because of men; a woman held captive in Room, a lesbian relationship challenged in Carol, an escape from a despotic patriarch in Mad Max. By comparison, films like The Revenant, Bridge of Spies, The Martian, The Big Short and Spotlight are all about the guys – specifically, about their achievements or heroic endeavours, a theme which carries over from previous years.
What’s more, all of these stories are largely realised through a male lens. Although a number of the best picture nominees across all the awards feature women in producer roles, only two have female writers – Emma Donoghue for Room and Phyllis Nagy for Carol – and not one is directed by a woman. Nor is any woman up for best director (and indeed, only one woman has ever won an Academy Award for directing). All of this is, of course, not to discredit these films or the people who make them. Many of them are excellent and deserve recognition. Rather, it’s reflective of positions of power in Hollywood, and sadly highlights the lack of opportunities available to minority filmmakers.
2015 featured some great women on and behind the screen. But until the people who hold the industry’s reins start thinking in line with those questioning, challenging, and bemoaning the lack of diversity in mainstream film, it might be a while before we see real change.