The Oscars, as always, bring a semi-climactic end to awards season. I’m personally a sucker for red carpet pics, for no reason other than I live vicariously through those lucky few who can afford custom Dolce and Gabbana. But this year, the buzz around the award circuit has focused on far more complex issues than best dressed lists and Angelina Jolie’s (truly iconic) singular exposed leg.
The hype around awards season has been centred on the MeToo and subsequent TimesUp campaigns, in which women and celebrities pledged their support to each other across backgrounds, sectors and professions. British actors signed a heartfelt letter before the BAFTAs calling for real change in an industry rooted in the objectification and exploitation of women. At the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs, women wore black and men donned TimesUp pins as an act of solidarity. The image was striking and it made an impact. For those of you who think that the fight for gender equality encompasses a little more than wearing black, you are not wrong. But this was about making a statement, and as women reading this will know, one of the first steps towards empowerment is the decision not to be scared anymore. When I first started standing up for myself against men in either potentially violent situations or situations that normally required me to be polite and accommodating e.g. being alive, it felt like a huge deal because it had required a seismic mental shift.
Let’s use the momentum generated by MeToo and TimesUp to overturn our cultural perceptions of artistic achievement
The change of tone at these events has been marked. From Natalie Portman pointedly announcing the ‘all male nominees’ at the Golden Globes to actors like Emma Watson bringing activists as their guests, shit got political and I am into it. But this mood needs to transcend the barriers of the red carpet and seep into the way the industry is run. Surely the irony of James Franco wearing a TimesUp pin cannot be lost on anyone. I can’t be the only person who believes that Greta Gerwig was a far more deserving nominee for best director than Guillermo De Toro, or that it is still astounding that she is only the fifth woman to ever be nominated in the category. This was the 90th Oscars. Are we really going to argue that women or people of colour are only just starting to be deserving of recognition in the film industry? The barriers that held them back were always unjust. Women and people of colour have, and always have had, important stories that they are best qualified to tell. Get Out and Lady Bird were such masterpieces of modern cinema because of the authenticity of voice that motivated and animated them. The decision to class Get Out as a ‘comedy or musical’ at the Golden Globes was one so horrifically misjudged that it’s almost laughable.
This season of strength is the first step towards change in Hollywood and beyond, but we are far from crossing the finish line and popping the champagne. Until women and people of colour are being rewarded in equal measure as white men, and preferably white men who don’t think that masturbating in front of horrified women is standard business meeting stuff, I’m not going to be satisfied. Let’s use the momentum generated by MeToo and TimesUp to overturn our cultural perceptions of artistic achievement, to move our gaze away from the male perspective and make room for storytellers from all backgrounds. And we could also maybe stop expecting women to audition for roles by giving blowjobs? I’m just throwing ideas around.
It’s not really just about who wins, it’s about who had the opportunity to win in the first place. If there were as many women and people of colour nominated in all the categories, then not only would they be statistically more likely to take home statues, the loss would sting a little less. If five people are running a race, and two of them don’t have shoes and the other two never received any coaching, should we really be carrying the shod, mentored victor around on our shoulders? Feminism is about equality, ending racism is about equality. Black dresses are not about equality, but maybe they do mark the funeral of out-dated and archaic sexist practises in the industries. Please, put on your Dolce and line up on the red carpet to sprinkle dirt on the coffin.