From last year’s #OscarsSoWhite campaign to the hugely important (but not-so-shocking) Hollywood Inclusion Study from USC Annenberg, most people realize that Hollywood has a bit of a diversity problem. With the blockbuster success of “Black Panther” and “Crazy Rich Asians” this past year, it seems clear that diverse movies about experiences other than a white male hero can be profitable in Hollywood. And the industry appears to be taking notice, green-lighting projects like Jordan Peele’s thriller, Us, and the female-led “Captain Marvel”. Yet, when it comes to the “best of the best,” a.k.a award winners, historically Hollywood has usually honored movies made by white men about white male stories. With the Oscars being this Sunday, February 24th, I decided to see how they’re doing this year and ranked the best picture nominees by diversity, looking at everything from casting, to storytelling, to the production team. Let’s see how far Hollywood has come … and how far it has to go.
For this totally scientific approach, I will be going from the least diverse to the most. Disclaimer: As a young, white woman, these are solely my opinions. I don’t pretend to be a diversity expert, and I’m just merely commenting on observations I have made. With that said, buckle up ladies and gents.
Whatever your opinions are on Dick Cheney, the story behind “Vice” is that of a white man gaining power and making decisions that affected millions of people. The only main POC in the movie is Tyler Perry’s Colin Powell, which is also very indicative of the US government in general. With Adam McKay both writing and directing the film, this Best Picture nominee lands as the least diverse project on this list. But is anyone really that surprised?
7.) A Star is Born
I know, I know: “A Star is Born” is an amazing film and it stars Lady Gaga, a bisexual/queer icon and Dave Chappelle is in it! BUT other than that bit of diversity, this movie was written and directed by only white men (even though we are huge fans of Bradley Cooper). Plus, this is a classic, hetero, white love story that has been remade for the fourth time! Lady Gaga is a true queen, but she can’t make up for this story’s lack of diversity in the writing room. Hollywood is the master of remakes, but should everything be remade four times?
6.) Green Book
This is the quintessential story of two men from two very different ways of life becoming friends and facing adversity together. One is Italian. The other is African-American. And they are traveling together through the South during the 1960s. This was definitely Oscar clickbait to show that “yes, we can be diverse!” Unfortunately, it falls a bit flat, not necessarily in the story, but in the fact that the director and writing team is full of white men. That is definitely a big point deduction.
5.) Bohemian Rhapsody
We are slowly getting into the more diverse range of these movies. “Bohemian Rhapsody” gets bonus points due to the fact that Rami Malek is of Egyptian descent, Freddie Mercury was himself British-Indian, and that he was bisexal. Also a Best Picture nominee based on the story of the man and band that brought us some of the most noticeable hits of this lifetime? Amazing. Yet, we can’t just forget that the director and writing team is all white men. Thus, this film sits right in the middle of this list.
4.) The Favourite
Yes, this movie follows around European royalty, but it is also so much more than that. “The Favourite” follows a Queen, her right hand girl, and a newbie trying to get into the Queen’s good graces. The whole movie focuses on the women and their schemes — not of men and not of women in terms of men. Instead, the women are all relying on themselves to plot their advances in the royal court. Essentially, they are a bunch of boss ladies and this movie is unapologetically female driven and pro-female in the way that makes it politically charged. Also, “The Favourite” is the only Best Picture Nominee to boast a female writer — which is saying a lot. Unfortunately, the racial diversity of the film is lacking, thus not putting it higher on the list.
“Roma” is a huge win for diversity. This Mexican film not only shows us a story that most white Americans have no clue about (a year in the life of a maid and her family living in 1970’s Mexico City), but was also released by Netflix and is currently streaming there. It defied traditional routes to consumers and became a huge success. It also brings Mexican culture and stories to the forefront in an industry that largely stereotypes Mexican culture and Latin culture in general. And it’s on Netflix. Netflix is the future.
Besides helping Spike Lee earn a much deserved Best Director nomination, “BlacKkKlansmen”’s story is unlike what we see regularly. When an African-American police officer infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan with the help of a Jewish American, the story is definitely going to be pretty wild. Also, in spite of the writing team being all men, there is more diversity than the other films can boast. Also Spike Lee. Enough said.
1.) Black Panther
“Black Panther” comes in number 1 because it was a phenomenon. Was it the best movie of the bunch? Who knows? Or more importantly, who cares? It’s the first superhero movie to reach this amount of success and be so unapologetically black. On top of that, the movie introduces strong black women and the men who respect them. While we all know that women of any race or color deserve to be respected, it’s rarely seen on screen and in real life. “Black Panther” is the film we have been waiting for and the fact that it is Oscar nominated is a huge deal. With Ryan Coogler at its helm, this movie is a cultural advancement that will go down in history. Plus, Michael B. Jordan is beautiful and he needs to be celebrated for all he does.
This year’s Oscar nominees have come a long way, and the diversity we all so truly crave is starting to peek it’s head into existence. With that, however, there is still a huge absence of women and Asian-American representation among these films as well. Time to step up even more, Hollywood.