No Longer White Gold. New Oscar nominations provide hope for less discrimination, more diversity.
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With the 89th Academy Awards coming up in just three days, no one is more ecstatic than this movie junkie. Yet, last year’s incredibly small amount of racial diversity found among major nominees caused the trending hashtag #OscarsSoWhite in protest. This was not an isolated incident. It was the second consecutive year in which all 20 nominees for acting roles were all white. With this poor quality in diversifying the Oscars over the past two years, I was worried this year would bring much of the same. However, I am happy to say the Academy is finally starting to recognize actors of all ethnicities and movies that focus on racial issues.
Two of the films nominated for best picture, “Fences” and “Hidden Figures,” both feature casts that were almost entirely African-American and had a strong message of not only racial but also female empowerment. “Fences” features an African-American family in the 1950s with a son who is held back by his father’s fear of discrimination and a woman who ultimately decides to be strong independently, leaving her husband “a womanless man.” Meanwhile, “Hidden Figures” focuses on female, African-American mathematicians for NASA. “Moonlight,” another best picture nominee, focuses on an African-American man’s struggles growing up in a rough neighborhood in Miami. “Loving” tells the story of an interracial couple fighting a legal battle for their right to be together. These four movies received a combined total of six acting nominations—much better than the zero acting nominations African-American actors received in the past two years.
The film “Zootopia” was also nominated for best animated feature film. Although this may seem unrelated to the powerful, ethnically-based dramas mentioned earlier, it is probably one of the most important movies nominated. The movie focuses on a world where animals can speak and live together; however, there is a distinct societal divide between predator and prey. Though this may seem like an innocent piece of fluff for children, it actually contains important racial messages, with the predators and prey representing different racial groups; however, what’s interesting is that the movie switches around the stereotypes and discrimination enough one cannot precisely tell which group is supposed to represent what race. The fact this is a children’s movie makes it even more powerful; we are sending a message of non-discrimination and anti-hatred to the children of our society, our future leaders, and we are sending them this message at a young age. I was almost beside myself when I saw this movie earned a nomination.
Are the Oscars going to be perfectly non-discriminatory all of the sudden? No. Does this sudden influx in diversity mean America is a post-racism society? Absolutely not. But this is progress. It may seem like a small step, but at least for this year, the reign of #OscarsSoWhite is over. From “Fences” to “Moonlight” to “Zootopia,” our society has started to address its problems—and these nominations show people are listening.
The views in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of the HiLite staff. Reach Emily Worrell at [email protected]