The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ 2020 slate of nominations for the Oscars was a sea of white men. The Democrats’ seventh debate also featured a profound lack of pigment and was pretty testosterone-heavy, though it did include two women.
For those who want equal representation, the sea of white maleness really sucked. How was this happening again? We had read countless think pieces on diversity, and yet the Oscars were as white as ever, and the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination is a white man in his 70s, trailed by another white man in his 70s?! We were told this was the year of women—no, wait, maybe that was last year. Has the year of the women expired?
In the incredibly lame Academy’s incredibly lame defense, they’ve always sucked. Every year we collectively bemoan the whiteness and general cronyism of the Oscars. Every year it becomes slightly harder to not feel despondent about all these lame white guys getting participation trophies from their friends.
But you have to remember that the Oscars were started in the late 1920s by a lame white guy (Louis B. Mayer) as a way to give his friends participation trophies and to get around actors unionizing by making them part of an “elite organization” of academy members (otherwise known as fancy scabs) in the hopes of having more control over the actors.
So perhaps the Oscars are really the same as they’ve always been. After all, these are the people who chose Crash over Brokeback Mountain and Shakespeare in Love over Saving Private Ryan and Green Book over anything else.
The 64 percent male Oscar voting base did not nominate any women in the best director category. Now this isn’t new: In the 92 years of Oscars, there have only been five female directors nominated for an Oscar, and of those only one has ever won (quick: who was it?). But this year was even more annoying because there were a bunch of excellent movies directed by women, including Little Women (Greta Gerwig), The Farewell (Lulu Wang), Queen & Slim (Melina Matsoukas), and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Marielle Heller).
Also, there were a lot of movies directed by women. Women made up “10.6% of the directors of the top 100 grossing movies from 2019.” The 84 percent white Oscar voting body seemed also to completely ignore people of color in the major categories, except for actress Cynthia Erivo (Harriet).
It’s like the white men didn’t see any movies that stared people of color, of which there were numerous excellent performances: Eddie Murphy, Lupita Nyong’o, Jamie Foxx, and Jennifer Lopez, about whose royal screwing agreement is nearly universal. April Reign, who created the #oscarssowhite hashtag, pointed out that “the pushback has often been, ‘Well, there just weren’t enough diverse films to nominate.’ But that clearly was not the case in 2019, with films like Just Mercy, Us, Luce, Clemency, The Farewell, and so many others.”
And what of the Democratic Party? We think the Democratic Party isn’t run by white men. After all, the head of the DNC, Tom Perez, is the child of two Dominican immigrants, and his deputy was Keith Ellison, the first Muslim to get elected to Congress.
But since Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker dropped out, the debate stage is a virtual cornucopia of white guy-ness, all of them arguing about who can appeal to women of color better, because if irony wasn’t already dead, this would have killed it. Yes, the party that wins from the support of people of color has a debate stage that looks the celebratory dinner at the South Hampton Paddle Tennis Club.
But the DNC does not pick the candidate, contrary to what WikiLeaks would lead you to believe. Neither, really, do the voters. No, the donors pick the candidates by giving them money—or at the very least, they aggressively screen the candidates for the voters. And those donors, whether they cop to it or not, like white guys. Yes, they went for a black candidate—once. But even Barack Obama was largely fueled by small donors in 2007, until he won Iowa and the large donors saw he could win. And they went with a white woman after that. But this time around, things are back to normal, and the big-dollar Democratic donors really like Mayor Pete and Joe Biden.
It’s possible that the donors like them because they think they’re “electable” in a way Hillary Clinton wasn’t. Instead of blaming her failure to visit Wisconsin enough or Clinton Ca$h, many Democrats have decided that Clinton’s loss is proof that a woman can’t beat Trump. It doesn’t matter what the thinking is, the reality is big money donors didn’t pony up for Andrew Wang, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders (old white guy but socialist), Elizabeth Warren, or Amy Klobuchar.
What if, and just bear with me here, white men win everything because everything from the Oscars to politics to most major corporations is run by old white men? From the C-suite to the gifting suite, white men are the bosses, and they tend to favor people who look like they do, people they feel comfortable standing next to on the approach to the 17th and giving an encouraging, “Oh, nice chip!”
Diversity begets diversity, and old white guys beget more old white guys. Old white guys have run things for the last 6,500 years and, you know, they’ve done a pretty good job, besides the wealth inequality, the health care crisis, the Trump presidency, the coming climate apocalypse, and all the wars. OK, they haven’t. So maybe, just maybe, it’s time to give the rest a shot.
Oh, and that lone female to have won Best Director? Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker in 2010. After she won, Bret Easton Ellis deemed her “overrated” and said she won only because she was a “very hot woman.” Hard to imagine Bret saying that about a man, but then again, men win every year, so there’s no need to explain a deviation to the norm. Maybe someday, when we have true gender parity and women win more directing Oscars than men, we can judge male directors on their cheekbones and hairlines.