Culture

Hollywood has a diversity problem

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Park So-dam, Lee Sun Gyun, Choi Woo-shik, Lee Jeong-eun and Kang-Ho Song won outstanding performance by a cast for “Parasite” at the Screen Actors Guild Awards but have not been recognized individually.

Story by Esperanza Garcia, Staff Writer
Photo courtesy Associated Press

On January 5, 2020, I sat on my couch for three hours to watch the Golden Globes. Hosted by the ever so illustrious Ricky Gervais, it was pointed out during the opening monologue that “many talented people of color were snubbed in major categories, unfortunately there’s nothing we can go about that, the Hollywood Foreign Press are all very, very racist, so.” Not only is there a truth in this line, but there are also things to unpack. But first, let’s look at our snubbed talent. 

Lulu Wang,  made her directorial debut with “The Farewell.” The film is produced by American indie film powerhouse A24. The film, which is based on Wang’s own experience as an Asian American woman,  is bilingual, with characters speaking in Mandarin and English. Despite this, in the Golden Globes, the film was only nominated for “Best Foreign Language Film.” Many could argue that this makes sense, after all, the film also has Mandarin, and is that not a foreign language? It can definitely be perceived as a foreign language, but it should be noted that Mandarin is the most spoken language in the United States after Spanish, and as a predecessor, the film “Roma,” was also bilingual —Spanish and Mixtec—and it went quite far in terms of accolades. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that the film was produced by American production house A24, which is very recognized throughout the film industry. If it feels like I’m being redundant about A24 being and American production company, it’s because I am. One of the criteria to be considered for the other awards, such as “Film of the Year,” is that it needs to be in collaboration with or produced by an American production company. “The Farewell” hit all the requirements, and yet the only nods that it got were “Best Foreign Language Film” and “Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical.” For those who have seen the film, I’ll leave it up to you if you think comedy or musical were proper categorizations for the film. 

Greta Gerwig and her adaptation of “Little Women” seem to be at the forefront of the discussion of women being snubbed. The film is the only one directed by a woman that made it to the category of “Best Motion Picture of the Year” category, Gerwig, however, was not recognized by her directing skills. This prompted people to say what feels to be the proverb of the film community, “I guess the film directed itself.” The prominence of Gerwig, a white woman, in a conversation about diversity is something to be discussed. Was the possibility of being recognized for the art that she helped create taken away because she was a woman? Yes. Is she more visible and supported in the position she is because she’s white? Also yes. Gerwig absolutely took a hit, no one can deny that, but we must also remember the role that her race plays in her situation being made visible. That visibility leads to her being the face of those snubbed this award show season, even though she’s the one who has the most to gain of those who were snubbed.

Bong Joon Ho, who has gained popularity for “Parasite,” a film that criticizes class, and how class affects how we interact and view other communities. Bong won the Palm d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, one of the most coveted awards, and the topic of the film has been named “the best of the year,” by countless critics. While the cast has been applauded as an ensemble for their talents, they were not recognized individually, even though it’s their talents as individuals that make the ensemble.

Their talents, alongside Bong’s direction, are what made the film one of the most prominent ones of the year, yet we’re almost towards the end of the season, and they don’t even have a nomination to show for it. Bong, while being nominated for all the major awards as well as “Best Original Screenplay,” has lost all but “Best Foreign Film.” And this is something of taste. I am willing to argue that “Parasite” is, respectfully, better than its competitors in the categories that it was recognized for. I am also very willing to argue that Bong and “Parasite” being nominated for almost all major and technical categories but not being able to win past “Best Foreign Film” or “Best Ensemble Cast” feels as if the Academy, the Foreign Press, and the BAFTAs are telling artists of color that they have a designated place in the western market, and it’s not with their white male counterparts. 

We’ve had masterpieces such as the ones previously mentioned, as well as films such as “Hustlers,” “The Last Black Man in San Francisco,” “Us,”and “Portrait of a Lady on Fire.” While the BAFTAs implied that the reason there was a lack of diversity in their nominees was because diverse films weren’t being made, the talent of Lupita Nyong’o Jang Hyejin, Park Sodam, Adéle Haenel, and Ana de Armas resonated through screens, and what we were left with was Scarlett Johansson receiving two nominations and a film that tries so desperately to be original despite the fact that it features a character with 80 years of plot.

Gervais was right, the Hollywood Foreign Press is racist, however, he is wrong about there being “nothing we can do.” All these institutions that are put on a pedestal by the film industry need to be held accountable, and they need to have a younger, more racially and gender diverse group to be a part of their academies and voting committees. Film is not what it was 50 years ago. People from disenfranchised communities as well as communities from overseas are starting to tell their stories and they deserve the same recognition in their art as their white and western counterparts.

headshotEsperanza Garcia is a senior at Aquinas College, majoring in Sociology and minoring in Women Studies. In her free time, she enjoys watching films and reading thriller books.

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