The 88th Academy Awards: #OscarsSoAmerican?

Margaux Nadler weighs in on the controversies surrounding the nominated categories  in the Oscars. 

On February 28th, the 88th Academy Awards will take place in Los Angeles, bringing together all the biggest names in the film industry under one roof.

Since last year, the Oscars have been linked to a worldwide controversy. The #OscarsSoWhite hashtag is criticising the lack of diversity in the best actor categories, where all 20 nominees are white. Before 2015, it had been 17 years since a similar situation occurred. In response to that, many representatives of the industry including director Spike Lee and actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith have decided to boycott the award show. LGBT groups have also made a statement with Sir Ian McKellen stating that there has never been an openly gay man who has won an Oscar for Best Actor.

There is also another form of discrimination we could mention: what about non-American actors? Though the Oscars is an American award show, it is not written in the eligibility rules that acting nominees have to be American citizens, whereas other regional award shows like the European, Asian or African Film Awards clearly do. In 1997, Helen Hunt, an American actress, won Best Actress in a Leading Role for her interpretation of Carol in As Good As It Gets. However, she was competing against four British actresses – Helena Bonham Carter, Julie Christie, Judi Dench and Kate Winslet. The odds, in this case, were not in favor of an American actress — but Hunt bet these odds, regardless.

Among over 300 Oscar winners, only 24 were European.

The only exception are British actors, who have won about 50 acting awards since 1928. But other groups like French-speakers, German-speakers, Scandinavians or Mediterraneans have been under-represented, and no one seems to object to that. It is the same for the Irish: only three Irish actors have won an Oscar. But this might change as two of the actors nominated for Best Actress and Actor in a Leading Role – Saoirse Ronan for her role in Brooklyn and Michael Fassbender for his role in Steve Jobs – are of Irish nationality.

This does not only apply to European actors. Asian and African actors have collectively won six Oscars.

Coming back to the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, many actors have declared that the lack of diversity in the award show is only a small part of the dilemma in the movie industry. When asked on which side he stood regarding the debate, George Clooney said that he agreed that there should be more diversity, but that the problem was part of the bigger problem as black actors are not given enough opportunities to star in award-winning movies. Maybe this could be applied to other ethnicities as well?

Let’s hope to see some change in the years to come, but for now we will be rooting for our fellow European nominees.

(Photo Credit: Rachel Jackson. Photo Credit: Flickr).

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