Stop Suffocating Our Stories

A. Guo, Asst. Editor-in-Chief

It has been 91 years since the Oscars gave out their first awards, and there has only been one woman to have ever won Best Director -only five to ever be nominated. That’s why when all five male nominees for Best Director were announced (Martin Scorsese for The Irishman, Sam Mendes for 1917, Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Todd Philips for Joker, and Bong Joon-ho for Parasite) by Issa Rae this year, she remarked, “Congratulations to those men.”

Not only are the directors all male, but many of the movies nominated are male-dominated. On the Daily Show, Trevor Noah said, “If you take out Parasite, women probably have 10 minutes of dialogue in all the other films combined. There’s no reason women shouldn’t have bigger roles in these movies.” His comments point to a heavy sexism problem in Hollywood. 

But before you try to defend the Oscars and say there are no nominees because there are no women to nominate, look at all the statistics. According to TIME Magazine, women directed 10.6% of the top grossing movies in 2019. More specifically, there were a number of critically acclaimed films and women filmmakers this year, like Greta Gerwig (Little Women), Lulu Wang (The Farewell), Lorene Scafaria (Hustlers), Céline Sciamma (Portrait of a Lady on Fire), Alma Har’el’ (Honey Boy), Melina Matsoukas (Queen & Slim), Marielle Heller (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood) and Joanna Hogg’ (The Souvenir). Some of these films and filmmakers were expected to gain some recognition from The Academy. 

In particular, people have been frustrated at Gerwig’s lack of a nomination, declaring she has been snubbed. Her film, Little Women, earned six other nominations including best picture, best actress, best supporting actress, best adapted screenplay, best costume design, and best original score. 

Saoirse Ronan, who plays the leading role Jo March, said, “I’m really happy that the Academy recognized [Gerwig] for adapted screenplay and picture, and I feel like if you’ve been nominated for best picture, you have essentially been nominated for best director.” She’s right. Little Women has clearly been popular among Academy voters in other categories, but why did Greta Gerwig fail to get nominated for Best Director? 

It is clear that the voters for these nominations are predominantly white men. But the Oscars have told us that they have added many new members of the Academy. Still, 32% of women made up the entire Academy in 2018. 

Even worse, while these 32% of women vote on the final award, they are not all the same people voting for who will be nominated. According to TIME, “The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is made up of various branches–the actors branch, the cinematographers branch, the writers branch, etc. Though the entire Academy votes on which nominees in all categories will win an actual Oscar, each branch votes on the nominees for its specific category.” What this means is that only a certain branch within the Academy votes on the Best Director nominees.

Furthermore, “The Academy declined to share the gender breakdown of the directors’ branch with TIME.”

Like Jo March (played by Ronan), says in Little Women, “Women, they have minds, and they have souls, as well as just hearts. And they’ve got ambition, and they’ve got talent, as well as beauty, and I’m so sick of people saying that love is just all a woman is fit for. I’m so sick of it!” We are sick of it. We are sick of the lack of recognition, the underrepresentation, and the sexism which exists in Hollywood and translates into the books, movies, and songs little girls and boys live by. 

We cannot overlook the beautiful stories which make up the entire world. We cannot allow for Hollywood, for society, for our world to continue covering up how beautiful and talented we really are.