On Facebook a friend made a status linking a article about a few tweets from Stephen King on the topic of diversity in art. I was going to comment, but as I kept typing it become longer and longer. Far to long to leave as a comment, because it would seam like a online attack instead of a simple response with my point of view. To the person who wrote the status, I hope you don’t mind that I’ve included your status for context.
I’m not one to be usually mixed up in things like this.
Don’t let it be mistaken. what this man has said is true.
ART does not DISCRIMINATE.
Why should we ‘consider’ diversity in art. Art is open to every medium and form and every story. Art is subjective. But when it comes down to it. Art isn’t about popularity or what is politically correct, whilst we can have an open diverse range of art, deciding to ‘not consider’ diversity when divulging what is the singular best adaptive screenplay or best picture isn’t wrong, if anything, by not considering it he remains to be UNBIAS.
All i see through this website is the exploitation of words in order to make another great look like a fallen angel when in fact he remains true to what is right, unbias in voting.
I think Stephen King has a valid point, but he said what he said in such a simplified way that it was very easy to be misunderstood. While he’s correct in saying that one should never “consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality”, that statement falls apart when so many consider some of the talent to be snubbed for this years Oscar nominations to be of high quality. His follow up tweet after some minor backlash, was more thoughtful, and if paired with his original tweet it might of not created a stir. “The most important thing we can do as artists and creative people is make sure everyone has the same fair shot, regardless of sex, color, or orientation. Right now such people are badly under-represented, and not only in arts.” What’s said here makes it clear that he believe that diversity shouldn’t come first in arts, but has created a discussion when so many are shutout.
To take things even further, what I don’t think is fair is for King to talk about diversity in the context of this years Oscar nominations as a blanket statement. As in the people who were snubbed are people, not just a political punching bag, so I hope you don’t mind if I get into some specifics.
First up would be the case of Greta Gerwig. It’s well known that in the history of the Oscars, there have only been five women ever to be nominated for Best Director (with one winner). Gerwig was the fifth in 2017 for her solo directorial debut Lady Bird, and it was thought that she would have a high chance of going two for two this year if she could gain a nomination for her work on Little Women. It was a record breaking year for films directed by women. Along with Gerwig there was Lulu Wong on The Farewell (also screenplay), Olivia Wilde on Booksmart, Lorene Scafaria on Hustlers (also screenplay), and Marielle Heller on A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood, just to name a few. With there only being five slots being up for grabs in Best Director, many felt like Gerwig’s nomination would champion the work of the females in Hollywood last year.
That isn’t to dismiss her work on Little Women though. Many felt like she was able to take a text material that is not only over 150 years old, but one that had been adapted numerous, and make it feel not just relevant to 2019, but also necessary. I think whats become clear though, and I feel this might be the case in multiple situations, is that the voters problem wasn’t with Gerwig being a female, but with the film she was making. It was reported in Vanity Fair that early screenings of the film in October last year were overwhelmingly comprised of women. Producer Amy Pascal said “It’s a completely unconscious bias. I don’t think it’s anything like a malicious rejection”. RSVPs for the film were skewed two to one. So it might of been hard for them to nominate a film they haven’t seen or given a chance.
Another major snub in the nominations was Jennifer Lopez for her part in Hustlers, another film with a female cast. I honestly don’t think her non nomination comes down to the colour of her skin, but it is all to do with the kind of role she played and the kind of role voters would prefer to reward. As written in VF, “She dared to play a character who used her sexuality as a professional survival tool and didn’t regret it”. On top of that I do believe that Academy voters see Lopez as a celebrity and not an actress. JLo’s snub was major though because she was considered a lock in nomination, not one that could go either way. She’s seen praise from countless other critics awards, with a total of 15 wins. Some of them won at the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, Satellite Awards, Hollywood Critics Association Awards, Dorian Awards, New York Film Critics Online Awards among others. So it was clear that many in America who consume and critic films for a living deemed her performance worthy of not only a nomination, but in many cases the win, how did she not get the Oscar nomination?
There are two other cases that stand out to me as questionable, and once again I think it has to do with voters having unconscious bias. Rapper and comedian Awkwafina was able to get serious in The Farewell, and it was able to land her a statue at last weeks Golden Globe awards. While I’m not saying that anyone that gets a win at the earlier in the month Globes deserves a automatic nomination, considering the drastic difference in voting pools, it was still frustrating to miss out. The frustrating thing is that once again I don’t think the movie was given it’s chance. Director Lulu Wang said that when she was pitching the film around she always got the same question: “Is this an American film or a Chinese film?”. If that was what she faced to get the movie of the ground, it’s hard not to think it might of also played a role when the film was consumed. I’ve now seen the performances of four out the five women who are nominated for Best Actress and Awkwafina is no better or worse than any of them. So I guess that’s how it goes sometimes, not everyone can be a winner (in this case just getting a nomination), but when the list of people who miss out are predominately people of colour, and the people who get in are predominately white, that’s why these questions get asked.
The cast of Parasite saw no love from voters. I saw a tweet yesterday which said that Parasite is the sixth film to score five or more nominations with a predominantly Asian cast, to go without a single acting nomination. The other films are The Last Emperor, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Memoirs of a Geisha, Slumdog Millionaire, and Life of Pi. Parasite has a genuine chance for Best Picture and for Boon Joon-ho to win Best Director. If he does win does that push this point even more? That not one of the four South Korean talents couldn’t land a nom, but he wins best director. Who was he directing then?
Is the Oscars always going to be the kind of place where known actors have much more of a chance? Among this years twenty acting nominations, there are some well known names. Ones like Pitt, Zellweger, Pacino, DiCaprio, Theron, Hanks. So well known that you only need the surname. The youngest person in the category of Best Supporting Actor is 56, so it is fair to say that experience helps.
The discussion around this years nominations feel’s like a throw back to the nominations for 2014 and 2015 where the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite was created, after all of the twenty nominees ended up being white actors. This year it was avoided with Cynthia Erivo’s performance as slave Harriet Tubman.
In recent years the Academy have made real efforts to add to its voting pool. Despite these efforts diversity is still being talked about, but it’s something that deserves to be talked about when it’s clear that people are rightly frustrated with the results year after year.
One comment on the Facebook page for the Academy read: “maybe the diversity ones were not that good! It’s judged on performance not race”. I think it’s pretty clear it’s not judged on race, but I’m not certain it’s judged on performance either.