Hello Academy? It's 2019.
Yalitza Aparicio made headlines for her nuanced performance in Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma," a film born out of Cuarón’s own childhood set in 1970s Mexico. This powerful film recently received multiple Academy Award nominations, including Best Director for Cuarón and Best Actress for Aparicio, making her the first Indigenous woman nominated in that category and the second Mexican woman ever.
This year marks the 91st Academy Awards and arrives on the helm of controversy within the past few years. An early trending hashtag of 2016 was #OscarsSoWhite, with public and celebrity backlash at the lack of diversity among the attendees, the nominees, winners and the Academy voters. One of the more vocal celebrities at the time included Will Smith, who spoke to "Good Morning America" Anchor Robin Roberts about the issue.
"This is about children that are going to sit down and watch this show and they’re not going to see themselves represented," Will Smith explained.
According to Forbes, 60 percent of the U.S. population is made up by Non-Hispanic whites. In the 2017 Academy Awards, they are 80 percent of the 20 acting nominees, 69 percent of the 16 writing nominees and 100 percent of the 5 cinematography nominees.
Director Kathryn Bigelow currently stands as the only female to win an Academy Award for Best Director. There are only four other women that have ever been nominated. In the same category, there have been four asian nominees, six Black nominees and six Hispanic/Latino nominees, including Cuarón.
In 2018, #TimesUp stirred the ceremony as women in Hollywood championed for more female recognition in the industry, following in the wake of the #MeToo movement. While female attendees wore black in efforts to show their united front, a multitude of speeches from winners both male and female called attention to the politics of the entertainment industry. It seemed that the “We’ll do better” mentality of the Academy held some truth in light of all the attention. Maybe, things will begin to change.
On Jan. 22, the nominee list was announced, and clearly disregarded these earlier controversies, favoring the status quo over change. Michelle Yeoh was snubbed for her supporting role in the hit “Crazy Rich Asians", while “If Beale Street Could Talk” Director Barry Jenkins was noticeably missing from the Best Director category. There were no female directors nominated this year, despite acclaimed films like "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" and "Destroyer." Truthfully, there were a multitude of candidates worthy of a nomination that were overlooked.
The disappointing reality is that after all this talk, nothing changed. Inclusion and representation have proven to be successful with recent hits like “Oceans 8,” “Sorry to Bother You,” “Black Panther,” “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Coco,” so money can no longer be the excuse. Nor is the number of diverse actors, filmmakers and designers ready to fulfill these roles. So why is it that when award season comes around, this is not reflected?
"We'll do better" is not good enough. Aparicio certainly broke barriers this awards seasons, but those barriers should not exist in 2019.