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No nomination = underrepresentation

Updated: Jun 2, 2020

Natalie Portman made the subtle, yet powerful, choice to represent the eight female directors whose nominated films did not win and who weren’t nominated entirely.

Opinion by Sarah Best, News Editor

Photo Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

It is no secret that the world of film is a male-dominated discipline, but this knowledge was only further exemplified when absurdity held the hand of sexism a bit tighter at the 92nd Academy Awards.

Members of Hollywood are criticizing Natalie Portman who took it upon herself to make the names of eight female directors known at the Academy Awards. Director Lorene Scafaria of “Hustlers” and Greta Gerwig of “Little Women” represent just some of the underrepresented. Going down the left side of Portman’s custom Dior cape read the gold-embroidered last names of all eight women including Mati Diop, Alma Har’el, Marielle Heller, Melina Matsoukas, Celine Sciamma and Lulu Wang.

In a recent post on her Instagram, Portman captioned the photo showcasing her dress, “Honoring these remarkable women last night who were not recognized for their incredible work: @thumbelulu, #GretaGerwig, @lorenescafaria, @mariellestilesheller, @matidiop, @msmelina, @alma.harel, and @celine_sciamma.”

Portman is the only female director of her production company “Handsomecharlie Films,” which is giving way to both the public’s and Hollywood’s accusation of her hypocrisy. An Oscar-winning actress herself, she effectively used her influential platform to bring attention to and be the voice of the nearly dozen female film-makers who undeservingly were not given one.

“The industry overall is better in terms of more women working now than a few years ago but it’s still horribly underrepresented,” said Valley College’s Department Chair of Media Arts Eric Swelstad, “but the percentage of women working in directing, especially, is upside down.”

The disproportionality of cinema is overwhelming male, not only in the broader aspect of the industry but also within Valley itself. There is one female professor in the entirety of the film department and, although there is a rising number of female cinema students, the ratio remains to be predominantly male. With the lack of recognition given to female directors at this year’s Oscars, it is no wonder why women are inherently being steered away from entering the world of film.

Despite its worldwide gross of $191.5 million, according to Box Office Mojo, “Little Women” not winning, “was a major slight against that film, against the direction of that film and the creative aspect of it,” according to Swelstad.

Although “Little Women” was nominated for Best Picture, Gerwig was not nominated for Best Director. It is a slap in the face to be nominated for one and not the other. These two categories would theoretically go hand in hand, but it only further exemplifies how discredited female directors are. To help illustrate this point, “Parasite” won Best Picture and Best Director. Instead of encouraging the breaking of the glass ceiling, Hollywood’s inequality is inadvertently instituting the idea of the sticky floor.

This year’s Oscars was undeniably a male affair, but that is not to say that that has to be a permanent characteristic of Hollywood. Instances of blatant sexism like these should not discourage females from pursuing film but should act as the driving force behind wanting to be the change they wish to see in the industry.


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