Column: Oscars haven’t been this “white male” in 19 years

Every year, the nominations for the Oscars released by The Academy are criticized and debated. However, this year it was hard not to miss the lack of diversity causing fans of cinema and social justice to speak up, sparking the viral hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.

Not only were the nominations unbearably white, they were incredibly male as well, which is hard to do with there being two categories dedicated solely to women. Amongst a media that is dedicated to stories — ones that represent voices — its utter lack of diversity seems contradictory.

Since the 1995 Academy Awards, the Oscars haven’t been this exclusive. Every nominated actor in the Leading and Supporting categories, 20 awards in total, are white.

With “Selma,” Ava DuVernay broke history being the first female black director to have a film in the running for an Oscar. While the movie was nominated for Best Picture and Best Song, DuVernay was not nominated. “Beyond the Lights,” “Dear White People” and “Belle” were critically acclaimed films made by people of color that were snubbed as well.

I find it in bad taste that “Selma” and other wonderful films made with people of color have been pushed to the side while “American Sniper” has been praised and held to great esteem. The film, while glorifying the Iraqi war, retains a “hero” who was a racist murderer quoted to have said ”I hate the damn savages, I couldn’t give a flying fuck about the Iraqis.”

In regards to gender, every nominated director is male. Every nominated screenwriter is male, which ignores Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl.” This passes up on the chance to award the first and only woman to adapt her own novel in 87 years.

This year of nominations may be notably white and male; not that much has progressed. Since the beginning of The Academy Awards, the Oscars have been behind the times in accurate representation.

Out of 427 nominations for Best Director, only four have been women. Only one has won, being Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker.” Out of 1,572 writing nominees, only 117 women have been nominated. Only 26 of those were not shared with a man. Of 631 Cinematography nominees, no women have ever been nominated. It hasn’t necessarily grown better either. In 1947, 6 percent of winners were female. In 2011, the number was 7 percent.

Clearly there is a disproportion that needs to be addressed. Who is at fault? Is it The Academy? The people who are buying the movie tickets?

A lot of critics defending the nominations have used the fact that the president of The Academy is a black woman. However, let’s not pretend that changes how the rest of The Academy votes. Oscars are handed out on a majority vote basis. The Academy is still 94 percent white and 77 percent male with a mean age of 63 years old.

Some say that it is by pure coincidence that the nominees are predominantly white and male. Some say that it is simply that mostly of the best films were made by the white and male.

For me, there are multiple things happening.

The film industry dictates who could potentially be nominated for awards, but the awards themselves influence the industry. If awards keep reinforcing the idea that films about white men made by white men are the most prophetic and ground breaking, then the industry will take its cues on what to gaslight to the mainstream stage. It’s a vicious cycle that needs to get revamped.

When a state that toxic exists, it’s hard for women and people of color to have a fair stand against a system put in place like Hollywood. Ones who do are treated as tokens, held up to excuse any and all statements of whitewashing, such as Lupita Nyong’o and Steve McQueen last year.

The good news is that while the industry has miles to go before it sleeps, more films are being made about women’s stories. Reese Witherspoon created her own production company, Pacific Standard, for the purpose of putting more work out in the film industry of stories about women, by women. Her first two projects were “Gone Girl” and “Wild,” both of which received nominations this year.

With almost nine decades behind us with such little progress, it becomes difficult to believe that the glass ceiling for creative and talented women in this industry is even remotely penetrable, let alone stories to allow people of color to be represented.

The largest error in the unjustifiable distribution of awards is that awards main purpose is to promote excellence. Not all of the nominations that are put out every year are the most excellent films and talent in the industry. Some of them are, absolutely. However, excellence is not what is expected and it’s not what we’re receiving across the board.

Excellence is what is innovative. Excellence is what pushes subject matter in a way it has never gone before. Excellence explores stories that puts a fire into cinema every single year. Excellence includes narratives about women and men all from different backgrounds and identities with stories that show a mirror to the audience and still somehow finds a way to surprise and to entertain.