Feb. 9 marks the 92nd Academy Awards, and out of the 20 actors and actresses nominated for the Oscars—as the Academy Awards are colloquially known—only two are people of color. Out of the five directors nominated, none are female. In other words, this year is no different from the Oscars of years past: the fight for more representation in the media has only intensified at the 92nd Oscars and other comparable awards ceremonies. Despite being far from the spotlight, students should care about having diversity in Hollywood because it encourages understanding and acceptance of different cultures, as well as minority empowerment through media representation.
The #OscarsSoWhite hashtag has been around since 2015 in reference to the ongoing trend of all-white acting nominees in the Academy Awards. According to Forbes, over 70% of main protagonists are white male characters, shedding light on the lack of racial and gender representation in the media. In terms of having different cultures in Hollywood, the number of culturally representative movies receiving widespread acclaim has dwindled, limited to only a few blockbusters like “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Moonlight.”
Many Asian Americans were full of anticipation after the movie “Crazy Rich Asians” was announced. The Singaporean and Chinese overtones and indications of East Asian customs in the movie were empowering for many who could finally relate to the culture on screen. Indeed, in box office returns, “Crazy Rich Asians” earned the highest romantic comedy box office grossing in the last 10 years, and sixth of all time, according to the New York Times. Additionally, 38% of viewers were of Asian descent, marking the highest Asian viewership of all time. The high viewership shows that Asian Americans were especially excited about this movie and many flocked to theaters to see reflections of their everyday life on screen.
For the viewers who didn’t relate to the traditions shown, many still bought tickets because they wanted to be introduced to different cultures. In addition to audiences from Asia, other movie goers also contributed to the highest viewership in 2018 for a romantic comedy, and many left theaters knowing more about the cultures they previously failed to understand. The movie portrays scenes detailing Singaporean traditions, thus introducing non- Singaporean viewers to more diverse customs and cultures. The success of this movie shows how important it is for many Americans to see their cultures displayed in mainstream media, as well as how essential such movies are in creating a more diverse and tolerant community.
Despite all of the hype around “Crazy Rich Asians,” it was severely overlooked during the Oscars, which are known for disregarding movies with cultural overtones, as well as actors and actresses of color. Although the Oscars have earned a bad reputation over the years, many viewers still rely on the awards ceremony to pinpoint movies worth watching. Movies that earn Oscars gain a certain level of merit and honor, making it significant that culturally diverse movies are so underrepresented and overlooked in both the nominees and winners. This may be due to the 93% white and 76% male makeup of the Academy Awards voting board. Some of these members may not understand the importance of recognizing movies with cultural significance as much as women or people of color, who have grown up more marginalized and understand the struggles of media misrepresentation or lack of representation.
When “Black Panther” was announced in 2018, African American individuals around the country began posting images representing their culture with captions reflecting their excited attitudes toward watching the movie. A video was posted on Twitter spotlighting three young teens hugging the movie poster, saying that the media representation that “Black Panther” provided made them proud to be American. Seeing their culture portrayed on screen, although distorted, evoked a sense of pride and belonging that is rarely felt by teens of color in America. Minority representation in mainstream media is impactful, especially for the younger generations, as growing up viewing actors and actresses like them onscreen helps them feel welcomed in a country with a majority white population.
According to the US Census Bureau, the US had a 76.5% white population in 2018. This provides an easy argument for those in favor of the predominantly white media representation, as it should be expected that most of the actors and plot lines revolve around the culture of white Americans. This norm may be expected, but it should not be accepted among Gunn students. According to the California Department of Education, Gunn is a culturally diverse school, with 46% of the student body of Asian descent and 8% of Hispanic descent. The amount of minority representation in Hollywood’s media does not begin to compare to the diverse student population on campus. It is important to create more movies and jobs featuring diverse cultures to increase understandingand representation.
While watching the Oscars this weekend, students should be aware of possible injustices and celebrate any recognition of diversity. Although students don’t have direct control over the results of award ceremonies, they can focus on the movies that provide marginalized populations with representation.
–Chang and Zang, both sophomores, are reporters.