The Oscar Winners: Lack of Diversity Apparent Again

Parasite Sweeps the Academy as the First Foreign Film to Win Best Picture


Augie Oppenheimer

“Parasite” took home four Oscars, including Best Picture.

Jinho Lee, Contributing Writer

The 92nd Academy Awards were held on February 9th, kicking off a new decade for the film industry. In a strong year of groundbreaking and diverse movies, the Academy left viewers impressed by moving away from awarding more traditional films with awards.

In a surprising step for the Oscars, South Korea’s entry for best foreign film, Parasite received six nominations, ultimately winning four: Best Original Screenplay, Best International Film, Best Director, and the coveted award of Best Picture. The film made history, becoming the first foreign language film to win Best Picture since the founding of the Academy, and the first South Korean film to ever be nominated for and win an Oscar. This feat is made even more impressive when considering how tight the race for Best Picture was. Parasite competed against  1917, a traditionally awarded war film that had gained awards season traction heading into the Oscars, Quentin Tarantino’s Hollywood love-letter to Hollywood, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, and the Netflix powerhouse Marriage Story. However, while the film itself was celebrated by the Academy, it was the sixth Asian film to get over five award nominations without having landed a single nomination for acting, demonstrating that there is still a long way to go for Asian actors in America. A University of California-Santa Cruz (UCSC) study found that only 1% of lead roles in Hollywood were Asian actors, a disproportionately low number for a race that makes up 6% of America’s population.

If white voters won’t recognize achievements made by actors of color, the only viable solution is to put more actors of color into the voting body.

Disappointingly, Little Women left the ceremony with no major awards despite being the only female-directed and female-centered Best Picture nominee of the year. In recent controversy, director Greta Gerwig didn’t receive a nomination for best director, even though her movie was nominated for 6 other academy awards. Comedian Trevor Noah commented on the illogic of this on The Daily Show, saying, “Did you know the movie directed itself?” 

In the history of the Academy Award, only one woman has won the award for Best Director and only five have been nominated in total,— Gerwig being the latest for her 2017 debut film, Lady Bird. Lulu Wang, director of The Farewell, was also missing from this category, even though her film had received critical acclaim throughout the awards season.

Awkwafina, the lead actress of The Farewell, was snubbed of an acting nomination for her acclaimed role, even though she picked up the Golden Globe for Best Actress. Only one actor of color was nominated at the Oscar ceremony: Cynthia Erivo for Harriet—the least since 2016’s ceremony, when there were no actors of color nominated. While the Academy has created an opportunity for the integration of international films into an American market, there are still big strides that must be made. A next step would be to strengthen the representation of minorities in the makeup of the Academy— a 2018 report found that only 16% of Academy voters were of a racial minority. If white voters won’t recognize achievements made by actors of color, the only viable solution is to put more actors of color into the voting body.

This piece also appears in our February 2020 print edition.