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The Academy must strive for better representation

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Since 1929, the Academy Awards, otherwise known as the Oscars, has celebrated excellence in the film industry. As one of the most watched award shows, the Oscars are notable for bringing all aspects of Hollywood – including the good and bad – to light.

Like many of its famous guests, the Oscars are not exempt from scandal. In recent years, the Oscars have rarely been discussed without some notable issue attached. In 2016, several of Hollywood’s elite boycotted the awards ceremony due to lack of diversity in the nominations. In 2017, the show suffered a major mishap when the award for Best Picture was mistakenly given to “La La Land,” instead of “Moonlight.”

The 2018 Oscars took place in the midst of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, providing a platform for the #TimesUp and #Metoo movements. Despite the push for female empowerment in a male-dominated industry, Kobe Bryant still received an award after being involved in a sexual assault case in 2003 – the months leading up to the 2019 Academy Awards proved no less scandalous.

After the Academy announced Kevin Hart as the show’s host, homophobic tweets written by the comedian between 2009-2011 resurfaced. In addition, the Academy faced further backlash regarding the decision to have four categories presented during commercial breaks. This decision was later reversed.

“The scandals attached to the Oscars often make me question if it’s really worth it.” – Hannah Martens ’20

The 91st Academy Awards proved groundbreaking in many ways. Although “Black Panther” did not win Best Picture, the film did become the first superhero movie to receive a nomination. The nomination of “Roma,” for the same category, was also historic as it was produced by Netflix. The film “Period. End of Sentence” won the award for Best Documentary Short, marking a historic break from societal taboos over menstruation.

Current U.S. politics were not left out of the dialogue, either. While presenting the award for Best Foreign Language Film, actor Javier Bardem stated, “There are no borders or walls that can restrain ingenuity and talent.”

In his acceptance speech for Best Actor, Rami Malek emphasized his roots as the son of Egyptian immigrants and a first-generation American. The show also featured musical performances, most notably a duet between Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper from  “A Star is Born.”

Despite the many positive aspects of the ceremony, the Academy faced backlash over Best Picture winner “Green Book.” Since its release, the film has faced much controversy regarding its depictions of race relations. Many felt that the Academy made a mistake with this decision, especially considering other nominations in the category.

The scandals attached to the Oscars often make me question if it’s really worth it to watch the ceremony. With all the problems our country faces, it seems trivial to be discussing whose outfit was the best or whether the host was actually funny.  Furthermore, I am skeptical of a group of Hollywood elites deciding what merits excellence in the film industry. Whether intentional or not, the Oscars have revealed issues of racism and sexism within the film industry. In the future, more efforts should be taken to make the Oscars more inclusive. Hopefully we will see more progress in next year’s ceremony.


Hannah Martens ’20 (marten1@stolaf.edu) is from Milton, Mass. She majors in English.