From hashtags to boycotts, the Oscars have not been exempt from critique in recent years. In 2019, it seemed as though a change was coming with actors such as Rami Malek not only being recognized, but winning, in their respective categories.
However, in contrast to the 2019 Oscars the nominations for the 2020s are no longer diverse, drawing visible frustration throughout the internet. In response to the revealed nominees, celebrities such as actress Issa Rae and renowned author Stephen King spoke their mind.
On Jan. 15, Rae announced the nominations for the 92nd Academy Awards alongside John Cho. After revealing the nominees for the category of Best Director, nonchalantly Rae stated: “congratulations to those men.” On this same day, King took to Twitter stating his thoughts to those who criticized the nominee options.
“As a writer, I am allowed to nominate in just 3 categories: Best Pictures, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay. For me, the diversity issue — as it applies to individual actors and directors, anyway–did not come up,” King wrote. “That said…I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.”
Rae’s reception was warm as she received laughter from the theatre and praise on social media. King, meanwhile, was scrutinized for his comment. Ava Duvenary, an acclaimed female director of African American descent, proceeded to express disappointment.
“When you wake up, meditate, stretch, reach for your phone to check on the world and see a tweet from someone you admire that is so backward and ignorant you want to go back to bed,” Duvenerary tweeted.
Hours later, King would make the attempt to show support for creators of color.
“The most important thing we can do as artists and creative people is make sure everyone has the fair shot,” he tweeted, “right now such people are badly under-represented, and not only in the arts.”
He finalized his tweet, writing in a separate post: “you can’t win awards if you’re shut out of the game.”
At this point, the damage had already been done with various news outlets such as NBC News reporting on the mishap.
King even proceeded to show support for actress Cynthia Erivo, star of the film “Harriet.” Erivo is nominated for the categories best actress and song. If she wins, she will become the youngest person to have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony (EGOT). While aware of this, in an interview with the New York Times, Erivo voiced her dissatisfaction in being the only black star nominated for an acting Oscar this year.
“It’s not enough that I’m the only one. It just isn’t,” she said. “Far too much work was done this year by incredible women and men of color that should be celebrated.”
Furthermore, the academy’s nomination of “Harriet” has faced critique due to the Oscar’s historically problematic treatment of films portraying the black community. Black women receiving recognition for portraying slaves is a trend that extends from Hattie McDaniel, who was the first black woman to win an Oscar in 1940, for her portrayal of Mammy in “Gone With The Wind,” to Octavia Spencer winning supporting actress on the “The Help” in 2012 and for Lupita Nyong’o winning best actress for “12 Years a Slave” in 2013.
Although “Harriet” focus is on the courageous freedom crusader, Harriet Tubman, to many it seems as though films that portray enslavement are more likely to gain recognition than films that portray the black community in varying ways.
2019 was a year filled with diverse films led by not only people of color, but women as well. Such examples include “The Farewell,” “Hustlers,” “Dolemite Is My Name,” and “Midsommar.” The list of snubs is long, extensive and covered on multiple websites. Consequently, such a matter causes people to wonder if King’s support of Erivo is authentic or, simply to preserve his reputation.
Ultimately, until the Oscars correct its issues with blatant inequality, celebrities such as Rae will continue to poke fun at the event’s predictability and people will continue protesting the event, if not outright watching other things.
The 92nd Academy Awards will premiere on television, Feb. 9, 2020 at 8 p.m.