Plottwist in Hollywood: should film awards pay more attention to diversity?

07 March 2024 |

The Oscars are still the most important film awards in the world. But there is also criticism about the lack of diversity and inclusion at the awards. Meanwhile, diversity criteria have been tightened, but how effective are these measures really?

In 2015 #OscarsSoWhite was trending after not a single black actor was among the nominees. Along with the Time's Up movement, it brought attention to the need for diversity in the film industry. There has been a growing awareness of inequality both behind and in front of and on the scenes.

Professor Sofie Van Bauwel, professor of gender and media studies, says: "The evolution came in part from the #MeToo movement, which originally arose in Hollywood after allegations of transgressive sexual behaviour, particularly against Harvey Weinstein."

This culture shift has affected not only the film industry, but also other sectors such as media, culture, and theatre. This has led to a broader discussion about more opportunities in the film world for women, people of colour or certain minority groups (LGBTQ+, people with disabilities), among others. But the road to inclusion is long and complex.

Diversity and inclusion checklist for nominations

Sofie Van Bauwel: "Historically, many interesting and deeply developed roles in films have been played by men. There is still a lack of complex female and non-binary characters in film. But meanwhile, many production houses are aware of the changing diversity perspective and are creating stories with strong female leads, among other things."

Movies also have to meet at least two of four diversity criteria to compete for a Best Film Oscar. The checklist assesses the diversity of actors and creators, film promotion and the provision of internship and training opportunities. But it is still early to tell whether these measures are bearing fruit. "Making a film is a lengthy process that easily takes several years. It will be looking forward to the Oscar nominations in two to three years to see how these new measures work."

Oscars jury also became more diverse

Not only the criteria for nomination were changed, but also who gets to nominate. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organisation behind the Oscars, has about 10,000 members. According to Sofie Van Bauwel, it is an old and closed system, where you are eligible for membership on the nomination of two members. In recent years, more female, black and non-US film experts have been invited to make the jury more diverse. Although it is still far from being a mirror of social reality.

Zonder Barbie is er geen Ken

"It may sound a tad optimistic, but I believe we should give the effort a chance," said Sofie Van Bauwel. "There is a growing awareness around diversity in the film industry."

"After the disappointed reactions to the Oscar nomination for Ken and not Barbie, I heard that women in the film industry do not get opportunities. Even after the presentation of the gender-neutral Flemish Ensors awards earlier this year (only four out of 30 awards went to a woman), it was suggested that the industry is shooting itself in its own foot. Women have indeed remained invisible in the sector for years, but you can't expect everything to suddenly change at breakneck speed. So yes, I am hopeful."



Sofie Van Bauwel

Sofie Van Bauwel a professor attached to the Centre for Cinema and Media Studies (CIMS) and department chair of Communication Studies at Ghent University. She lectures on cultural media studies, gender and media and television studies and conducts research on popular visual culture, feminist media studies and television.


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