Oscar season is upon us again, and after an initial peruse of the nominees it seemed fitting to dig out an image from the Guerrilla Girls archives (above). Way back in 2002 the LA-based activist feminist group launched a campaign protesting and drawing attention to the fact that old Oscar seems to represent a certain kind of artist – namely one who is white and male.
Although there are self-described progressive sites in the blogosphere heralding this as a great year for “progressive films,” such is the case with Adam Howard’s post on Alternet, it’s hard for this film fan to get excited about Hollywood’s “unapologetic liberal” George Clooney sweeping the nominations (and don’t get me wrong, he’s perfectly dreamy and political). Yes, it seems that the Guerrilla Girls’ critique from 2002 still holds: out of all the acting nominations there is one non-white actor, and of all the nominations in general (excluding gendered categories of course) there are very few women. Reading this excerpt from the Guerrilla Girls campaign of five years ago, it was difficult for me to see any need to update the text, despite some nascent “progressive” celebration on the net:
Did you know that no woman has ever won the Oscar for Best Director, and that only two have ever been nominated? That 94% of the writing awards have gone to men? Or that only 3% of all the acting awards–lead and supporting–have ever gone to people of color.
Why are women and people of color shunned by Oscar? Because they're shunned by the film industry. Hollywood likes to think of itself as cool, edgy and ahead of its time, but it actually lags way behind the rest of society in employing women and people of color in top positions. 96% of major films are directed by males. No woman has ever won an Oscar for Cinematography or Sound. Even 85% of the make-up awards have gone to men.
Sure, it's great that three African-Americans were nominated for Acting Awards this year (for the first time in 30 years.) Meanwhile, Latinos account for only 5% of movie roles, Asians 2%, Native Americans .02%. Female actors get only 25% of starring roles. And the role of the wife in A Beautiful Mind (for which Jennifer Connelly received Best Supporting Actress) was whitewashed: the real woman was a Latina, born in El Salvador. In the movie she was ethnicless and accentless.
Oscar, you haven’t come a long way baby. Despite a few docs tackling issues of war, empire and a miserable shipwreck of an administration currently snorting it’s last long line, the Academy’s old farts have held up another sparklingly gilded mirror, and behold the male whiteness of talent in movies.