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Oscars 2021: Sexist or inclusive?

By Entre Comillas

por Mariana de Aranaga

Cinematographic culture influences our way of thinking more than you may believe; we grow up watching movies and soaking in the messages and conducts that they convey. In the long run, movies can shape what we see as acceptable and consider correct behavior in society. Although movies can seem harmless, recent studies by various universities show the contrary. 

A few months ago, The Academy posted throughout their social media some equity and inclusion initiatives that will be applied as of 2025 for a movie to be eligible for Best Picture. There are four official standards, and each movie must meet at least two of these. The first is for there to be “On-screen representation, themes and narratives”, the second is “Creative leadership and project team”, the third is “Industry access and opportunities” and the last one “audience development”. (Hammond, 2020)

These standards are very broad and extremely vague, leaving them open to different interpretations (arguably to anything the creators deem necessary). In addition, this only applies to the nominees for Best Picture, not every category. So, while they did issue an initiative for inclusion, it doesn’t really achieve much. Some argue that the content of this initiative is so broad in nature to leave the artistic choices open and not encase movies to very slim standards, but basically things are the same as before. 

An easier test to apply to these motion pictures is a so-called “Bechdel-Wallace Test”. This is a simple way to measure the representation of women and reduce stereotypes. It consists of three characteristics the film must meet: first, there must be at least two women; second, the women must talk to each other; third, they need to talk about something other than a man. In the 2020 Oscars, only one of the five biggest movies passed the test. The movie that passed was “Parasite”, but on the other hand, “1917”, “Joker”, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and “Ford v. Ferrari” did not pass it. Four out of the five biggest movies in 2020 did not even have two women speaking to each other, yet the Oscars still consider themselves inclusive. 

This logic can be applied to different minorities or discriminated groups of people, for example, the LGBT+ or black community. There are certain stereotypes that minorities always seem to be portrayed as, like the “gay best friend” that always has the same personality, or the black woman that is always “sassy and rebellious”. White, straight, upper-class males are the centre of attention and the only in-depth characters we normally see. Unfortunately, this is what the next generations are still growing up seeing, and the Oscars keep rewarding these movies. 

In general, the Oscars’ system is pretty corrupt. Hand in hand with the Golden Globes, awards aren’t given out freely: there are certain unspoken rules that nominators follow when choosing the winner (these are not inclusive). One of many examples is that Leonardo di Caprio did not win an Oscar until he was 41 years old; albeit he had done amazing performances, he was too young to win, since no Male Best Actor award has ever been given to someone under the age of 40. Whilst these ridiculous unwritten rules are followed religiously, including women as more than props to help the male protagonist is not one of them. 

The Academy consists of 6,600 people. Of all these people, most are from the USA, 96% are white, all of them are industry professionals and most are still active in the film industry. Originally, there were only 6,000, but 600 were added to include “diversity”, even though  that’s not enough to sway the results, since it represents merely 10% of the voters, so again, a change that doesn’t actually represent progress. 

In 2021, a vast majority of nominated motion pictures will still not pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test and do not have to adhere to the equity and inclusive standards yet. The supposed effort of the Oscars is probably just a smoke screen to continue broadcasting to 30 million people who tune in to watch it every year and not lose audience. You can check online if your favorite movie passes the test, it probably doesn’t. 

The Film Theorists. (2017, January 8). Film Theory: The ULTIMATE Guide to Predicting Oscar Winners [Video]. YouTube.

Seth, R. (2020, July 17). Why Are Films Failing The Bechdel Test When TV Has Progressed? British Vogue.

Kim, A. R. (2020, November 7). Do The 10 Biggest Oscar Winners Of 2020 Pass The Bechdel Test? ScreenRant. 

Selvaraj, N. (2020, June 5). The Bechdel Test: Analyzing gender disparity in Hollywood. Medium. 

Hammond, P. (2020, June 12). Oscars Academy Inclusion Standards. Deadline.

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