Major award shows are no strangers to lacking diversity in their main categories. From best performances as actors to directors, Hollywood’s most coveted accolades exclude a massive portion of the entertainment industry. The 92nd Academy Awards coming up in February are no exception to this disparity in nominations.
Cynthia Erivo, who played Harriet Tubman in Kasi Lemmons’ “Harriet,” is the only actor of color to be nominated at this year’s Oscars out of 20 viable spots. Jennifer Lopez, Eddie Murphy, Awkwafina, Park So-dam, and Lupita Nyong’o have been recognized by critics and across other award circuits for their performances in “Hustlers,” “Dolemite Is My Name,” “The Farewell,” “Parasite,” and “Us,” respectively, but were snubbed in the Oscars categories for similar accolades.
Erivo was also nominated for Best Song, totaling two nominations for this year’s awards and making her eligible to become the youngest EGOT recipient at age 33.
Trevor Noah, the host of “The Daily Show,” discussed the sole performer of color by the Academy on his show, expressing his thoughts and confusion on the exclusion.
“I’m glad that at least one black woman was nominated for Best Actress,” he said. “Congratulations to Cynthia Erivo, that’s exciting. Although, it is kind of predictable that it was for playing a slave. And I’m not saying she didn’t deserve it, but just imagine if every white actor that was nominated got it for playing a supervisor at Whole Foods. White people, you’re more than just that!”
What does Cynthia Erivo have to say about it?
The Oscars aren’t the only award show under fire for a lack of diversity on their list of performers. An all-white list of nominees from the BAFTA was released less than a week before the list from the Academy. When asked to perform her song “Stand Up,” from “Harriet,” at the BAFTA Awards, Erivo turned down the invitation, stating that the event “didn’t represent people of color in the right light.”
Erivo spoke to The New York Times about her nominations, mindful of the fact that she was the sole performer of color for one of the coveted spots.
“It’s not enough that I’m the only one. It just isn’t,” she said. “Far too much work was done this year by incredible women and men of color that should be celebrated.”
On the press tour for the HBO show “The Outsiders,” Erivo called in from Tokyo to discuss the nominations as well as the comments made by Stephen King—who is also the author of the novel that inspired “The Outsiders”—on Twitter regarding diversity.
“I can’t solve how you balance diversity with quality of work,” she said, responding to the question regarding balancing diversity with quality according to The Hollywood Reporter. “I feel like this year we had a flurry of beautiful pieces by people who are of diverse nature: black women, women in general.”
She added, “I think we just have to open the doors and our eyes to those people who are making the work.”
“I am one of the players, so if there’s room for me to play, then that’s what I’m going to do,” she said, ending her response. “And if I can create room for others, that’s also what I’m going to do. But it’s also up to those people who are used to doing things a certain way to shake up their own ideas, change the way they think, change the way they cast things, change the way they line up their producers, directors, and writers and make sure that the room reflects the world that we live in.”
What else was missing from the Oscars?
The awards are also being criticized for their all-male Best Director category. Issa Rae, alongside John Cho, announced the nominees for the category (Bong Joon-ho, Sam Mendes, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, and Sam Mendes) and verbally expressed her distaste for the category.
Only five women have been nominated in the Best Director category, including Lina Wertmüller in 1976, Jane Campion in 1993, Sofia Coppola in 2003, Kathryn Bigelow in 2009, and Greta Gerwig in 2017. Bigelow was the only one to win in her category for “The Hurt Locker.”
“Congratulations to those men,” she deadpanned. Olivia Wilde, Greta Gerwig (who received six other nominations for “Little Women”), Lulu Wang, Lorene Scafaria, Kasi Lemmons, and Melina Matsoukas are among the female directors who have been given love by critics at large for their recent films but were noticeably absent on the nominee’s list.
The same as years past, 2020’s award show categories have continued to exclude diverse nominations when it comes to race, gender, and sexuality.
Photographer Credit: Micaiah Carter