Another Awards Season Slammed for Lack of Diversity
“Clearly everybody knows that everybody in the four acting groups of nominees are white, it’s infuriating, we can’t make the industry do something…”
On the heels of Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards, the BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) nominations were announced Tuesday and have already been denounced for its lack of diversity. Is this ongoing debate becoming a tradition with the awards season each year?
Every one of the 18 actors nominated for a BAFTA this year is white, in the four leading and supporting actor and actress categories.
Joker star Joaquin Phoenix — who won a Golden Globe for best actor in a drama film on Sunday — joins Leonardo DiCaprio, Adam Driver, Taron Egerton and Jonathan Pryce in the leading actor category. Jessie Buckley, Charlize Theron, Scarlett Johansson, Saoirse Ronan, and Renée Zellweger — who took home a Golden Globe on Sunday — all received nods for leading actress.
This year’s Golden Globes were also met with controversy for lack of diversity, particularly for its exclusion of women in the best directing category. Similarly, there are no women nominated in the same category for a BAFTA. However, Bong Joon-ho, a South Korean director, is nominated for his work on the critically acclaimed film, Parasite, which is also nominated for Best Film.
The Golden Globes did make history this year when actress Awkwafina became the first performer of Asian descent to win a Golden Globe Award in a lead actress film category, for her role in the comedy, The Farewell. She’s only the sixth woman of Asian descent to be nominated in the lead actress in a musical or comedy category.
At least BAFTA’s film committee is acknowledging the lack of diversity in this year’s nominations though.
“Clearly everybody knows that everybody in the four acting groups of nominees are white, it’s infuriating, we can’t make the industry do something, all we can do is encourage and push and inspire and try to help people coming in at the bottom end,” said Marc Samuelson, chairman of the committee.
Indeed, it seems logical that the root problem with these nominations can be traced back to the film industry itself. If Hollywood churned out more diverse films of quality, awards shows may respond with more recognition. It could be argued that many of these awards committees are not solely averse to recognizing talent, but simply not finding sufficient ones due to the industry’s reluctance to gamble on diverse subjects, performers, and filmmakers.
That’s not to say that there aren’t great works of art being made by women or people of color now. After the Golden Globes controversy, observers pointed out critically acclaimed films directed by women in 2019 that were surely worthy of recognition: Lorene Scafaria’s high-profile crime film Hustlers, Lulu Wang’s comedy-drama The Farewell, Marielle Heller’s feel-good charmer A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart, Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire, and Greta Gerwig’s Little Women.
All this debate aside, it could also be argued that these awards shows are becoming increasingly irrelevant anyway. In later years, with social media and celebrity culture reaching new heights and accessibility, the glitz and glamour of the annual Academy Awards has seemed to lessen. Also, the very act of politicizing the nominations and winners itself (not just regarding diversity, but industry motives, trends, and favoritism based on a nominee’s career trajectory for example) has rendered these types of awards shows increasingly obsolete. It certainly raises an artist’s profile to have one of these awards on their resumes, but it’s also common for winners to plummet into obscurity soon after.
It’s clear that the debate for diversity in the film and TV industry is still raging, and like all progress, it will be slow and rife with missteps as we are seeing now.
The BAFTAs, which is seen as an important indicator for the Oscars, will be held on February 2.
Nominations for the 92nd Academy Awards will be announced on Monday, January 13, 2020.