That’s a Wrap: The sexist secret of the Oscars

The Oscars, formerly known as the Academy Awards, rank as the most prestigious film and production awards. The Academy's history of sexism and racism, however, diverts many talented college-aged female and minority actors and producers from pursuing careers in film.

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The Oscars, formerly known as the Academy Awards, rank as the most prestigious film and production awards. The Academy's history of sexism and racism, however, diverts many talented college-aged female and minority actors and producers from pursuing careers in film.

by Melina Nakos, Reporter

It’s a fact about being in high school: drama is considered a “girly” pursuit. Boys are sometimes shamed for participating in the activity. Girls fight over lead roles, due to the huge population of females auditioning.  

As a high schooler, I was convinced, through my experience in the Harker Conservatory, that I would be surrounded by females as I pursued my career in the Cinematic Arts.

I could not have been more wrong.

The fact about being a female director: you get used to being the only one.

According Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, only 7 percent of directors and only 5 percent of cinematographers working on the top 250 films of 2014 were females.

These low numbers provide stark contrast to the much higher percentages of female students studying film and television production in top universities for film. For instance, at New York University’s Kanbar Institute for Film, Television, and Video Production at Tisch, 43% of students are female.

The dirty truth is that women are too often discouraged from pursuing careers in major creative roles behind the scenes.

One huge factor that could play a role in a woman’s decision to deviate from narrative filmmaking and pursue other fields, such as documentary filmmaking, is the attitude that filmmakers and film critics have towards the Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars.

The Academy Awards are typically considered the most prestigious film awards. The issue arises when the award winners only represent one demographic, and the other demographics are ignored.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised to discover that, once again, not a single woman had been nominated for Best Director by the Academy when it published its nominees on Jan. 15. This year’s Academy Award nomination pool? Exclusively white actors.

In the 88 years of the Academy Awards’s reign over the film industry, only four women have been nominated for Best Director and only one has taken home the award.

Viola Davis made history in 2015 for being the first African-American to bring home the Emmy for Best Actress in a Drama. This should not be history. People of color should be given the same regard as white people, but instead, it took 67 years for a African-American person to claim the title.  

The internet has exploded in outrage over the recent announcements, with hashtags such as #OscarsSoWhite trending for the second year in a row and people calling for a boycott of the annual live show.

The Academy Awards made one statement very clear: the film industry is for men and white people.

Women and people of color? Nice try, better luck next year.

Some argue that women are simply not delivering, that the movies women make are not to par with the industry’s standards.

Women directed six out of the 14 Sundance film festival dramatic features, such as Kris Swanberg’s Unexpected, which took home the Grand Jury Prize. Not even these six women were deemed worthy of a nomination.

With women elsewhere in film receiving more recognition, it becomes clear that women simply aren’t being looked at with the same weight as men in the field.

And low chances of nomination lead to fewer women believing that it is realistic to pursue a career as a director. Thus, fewer women make feature length narrative films, and fewer women are eligible for nominations. Lather, rinse, repeat.     


 

 

Melina Nakos (12) is a reporter for The Winged Post. This is her third year as a part of the journalism program. She is also an acting certificate student and loves participating in performing arts. In addition, she makes films. Melina also is the captain of the Improv Troupe and the Disability Awareness Program representative for Harker.