Opinion: The film industry needs diversity now

By Hannah Schulz | Head Copy Editor

When the list of Oscar nominations was released on Jan. 13, different social media platforms were engulfed in the flames of film opinions. This year’s nominations are some of the most controversial in Oscars’ history, namely because of their lack of diversity.

One of the bigger controversies revolves around the Best Director category, where all nominees are men. Many pointed immediately to Greta Gerwig, director of Best Picture nominee Little Women and how she was not recognized despite the film being nominated in six other categories.

A lack of gender diversity in Hollywood has been prevalent since the beginning of filmmaking and now that it’s being noticed, the lack of diversity in other areas is also being noticed.

Hollywood has a habit of only recognizing films made by dominant groups: heterosexual, White, cisgender men. You’ll struggle to find films from the mid-1900s centered around a minority group.

Even if you find one, they’re likely riddled with inaccuracies and stereotypes. In films like Casablanca, recognized as one of the best movies in cinematic history, Black actors were typecast to minor roles — mainly those in the service industry, like Sam the piano player.

Similarly, in the 92-year history of the awards, only three Asian actors have won in any acting category. A lot of the time, White actors have been cast to portray Asian characters.  

Women in the earlier days of Hollywood struggled to assert themselves. Many female characters were damsels in distress, seen as whiny or as a hindrance to the strong and fierce male lead. If that wasn’t their archetype, they were romantic interests that were complementary to the men and lacked any depth.

Women and people of color alike struggled to be seen as independent and free-thinking beings. In many ways, these struggles are still all too real.

But we are getting better. While most categories are still representative of the aforementioned dominant groups, there are still minority groups beginning to take root.

Parasite, a South Korean thriller, is nominated in six different categories. It’s the first South Korean film to be nominated in three of those categories: Best Picture, Best Director and Best International Feature Film.

This is incredibly groundbreaking, and the film has won many highly regarded awards outside of the Oscars.

South Korean cinema is larger than most Americans realize, and the fact that more are recognizing this means that there’s potential to see more South Korean-made movies in the future.

Other categories, such as Best Documentary (Short Subject) and Production Design, contain more underrepresented groups than the more recognizable categories. From a documentary about a Black man running for office in Ferguson, Mo., to Algerian-born film editor Thelma Schoonmaker, these categories are more reflective of the diversity offered by the real world.

It’s not that minority groups aren’t making these films. Director Jordan Peele (Us), whose movies have been raved about by moviegoers, was snubbed when Us failed to receive any nominations.

Likewise, The Farewell also failed to receive nominations, despite the reception and incredible displays of filmmaking, such as the script being in dual languages English and Mandarin Chinese.

Despite women, people of color and foreign-born artists all making films, they aren’t garnering the attention they deserve from the general public and the Academy.

The film industry needs to diversify and be more open to talking about diversity. In order to create content that is truly representative of the world and its people, we need to start discourse on what is wrong and how to fix it.

People of all backgrounds have incredible, rich stories to tell. It’s just a matter of listening.