It has been over a week since the nominations for the 96th Academy Awards were announced, and they were the most controversial batch of nominees in what feels like a long time. The two major snubs that were on everyone’s minds were those of Greta Gerwig for Best Director for Barbie and Margot Robbie for Best Actress for playing the titular doll. These two snubs generated so much conversation that even Hillary Clinton chimed in, effectively creating a flood of memes after her use of #HillaryBarbie. I will talk more about these two snubs later, but the outrage caused by them led me to learn that this is, unfortunately, not an uncommon issue when it comes to the Oscars.
In the 96-year history of the ceremony (excluding the upcoming awards), around 330 statuettes have been awarded in non-gendered categories to women. Now, that number may seem high to you, but in comparison, there have been over 13,000 nominees (including the gendered categories). Add in the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress winners, and you have about 550 winners. Which according to the Inclusion Institute at USC Annenberg is around 16% of all winners since 1929, with 2% of these winners being women of color.
Another staggering fact that I learned is that only one woman has been nominated for Best Director twice and that is Jane Campion, who won in 2021 for The Power of the Dog and was nominated in 1993 for The Piano. 2021 was also the only year that two women have been nominated for Best Director in the same year. The other two women (yes two) who have won Best Director are Kathryn Bigelow in 2009 for The Hurt Locker (she was the first woman to win) and Chloé Zhao in 2020 for Nomadland. These facts make me so angry because it is effectively saying that only one woman a year is worthy of being nominated, and once you’re nominated once, don’t expect to be nominated again, oh and your chances of winning are also really slim. Seeing these facts laid out in front of me really made me understand just how ballsy it was for Natalie Portman to call out the lack of female nominations while presenting the same award at a different ceremony. At the 2018 Golden Globes with Ron Howard, she introduced the nominees by saying “And here are the all-male nominees…” to which was met with gasps from the crowd and an uncomfortable giggle from Howard.
Statistics like this just show the Academy’s unwillingness to nominate female contenders, and it is really disheartening to see so much talent go ignored. When a woman is nominated or wins an award, it shouldn’t be shocking; it should only be celebrated. Going back to the point of Margot Robbie and Greta Gerwig being snubbed for Barbie, a lot of people misconstrued why people were mad that they were snubbed. The film was the highest-grossing movie of the entire year and the highest-grossing movie directed by a female director, which is HUGE, and you would think that this accomplishment would be recognized by the Academy. It is also a women-led movie, which brings me to Robbie. She was BARBIE, however, her male costar, Ryan Gosling, was nominated for playing Ken, which effectively mirrors the movies plot that “men rule the world.” On the other hand, her other costar, America Ferrera, was nominated for her role as Gloria, which is absolutely something to be celebrated. This controversy also overshadowed the actual nominees, who all deserved to be there. More people were talking about the fact that Robbie was snubbed more than facts like Lily Gladstone becoming the first Native American woman to be nominated for Best Actress. No one was saying that the five nominated women (Gladstone, Carey Mulligan, Emma Stone, Annette Being, and Sandra Hüller) didn’t deserve to be there; they were just expressing their anger over the Academy deeming the supporting male performance to be nominee-worthy over the lead female in a movie about being a woman.
Talking about the Best Actress and Supporting Actress awards. There have been roughly 484 nominees for Best Actress, 29 of those being women of color, with only two winnings. (Halle Berry for Monster’s Ball in 2001 and Michelle Yeoh for Everything, Everywhere, All at Once in 2023). Out of the 445 women nominated for Best Supporting Actress, 57 were women of color, with 14 of them winning the statuette.
When it comes to the Academy voters themselves, there are about 10,000 of them, and I’ll let you take a wild guess as to what their demographics look like. If you guessed mostly old White men, then you’d be correct! According to Statista, 81% of all Academy voters are White, 67% of all voters are male, and 54% of all voters are over the age of 50. That right there explains all I need to know about why there are so many disparities when it comes to women nominees and women of color nominees.
All of this begs the question: Will the Oscars Ever Be for Women? I unfortunately cannot be the one to answer that. I can’t deny that there has been significant progress over the years when it comes to women being nominated. This year's nominees were 33% women, which is the highest it has been in years. Hopefully, these percentages keep increasing, and women can finally be on the same playing field as men, but for right now, there is still a lot of work to do, and it will be interesting to see who takes home the statuettes this year.