Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The Oscars are a boy’s club

I cried when Kathryn Bigelow won best director for “The Hurt Locker” in 2008.


At the time I was still an aspiring filmmaker, and as a woman I was feeling pretty beaten down by the misogynist film nerds I encountered left and right, especially in my film classes. Bigelow winning felt like I had won something, too. Here she was, recognized for excellence by the greater film community and for an action film no less. A woman winning best director for the first time ever meant I might not bash my head against the glass ceiling anymore.

But nothing changed. No more women directors were nominated. There wasn’t a sudden outburst of woman-directed films outside the rom-com genre. The number of women writing in television actually dropped. And those douchebags kept trolling my film classes, rolling their eyes and defending Polanski.

The high of Bigelow’s win plummeted to a sick, sad little wallow, mostly involving the end of raising my hand in class. Bigelow’s Oscar win became a blip in a vast world of white dudes congratulating white dudes on how awesome it is to be a white, straight, cisman.

A recent study by the Los Angeles Times “found that 94 percent of the 5,765 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are white and 77 percent are men.” That’s a pretty sad state of affairs. From last year’s bizarre choice of hosts, James Franco and Anne Hathaway to the increase in best picture nominees to include blockbusters that will never win, you think the Oscars, constantly trying to prove their relevance,  might try a little diversity; i.e., have their voting population actually represent the world they’re trying to be relevant to.

The Academy’s choices reek of white dudes trying to appear diverse, though. Awarding movies like “Slumdog Millionaire,” where the whole cast is Indian but everyone who gets up to accept the best picture award is white, epitomizes the easy pass to the mirage of diversity. Maybe the success of “The Hurt Locker” was due to the opportunity to vote for a woman while still honoring a movie about men and for men. That’s not to say that they always make the effort. You can’t get any more of a white dude love fest than “Lord of the Rings.”

That’s not to say that any of these movies are bad, or that they didn’t deserve to win. It’s more to call into question why the Academy makes the choices they do, and why we give them so much reverence. In a lot of ways, they represent an old film world: One before piracy, cheap indie digitally-shot movies, and gossip tabloids. Nostalgia for the age of their own greatness is probably why “The Artist” will win the Oscar for best picture this year. And maybe it deserves it. But who out there in the great expanse of America is “The Artist” really relevant to, and will it matter to anyone if it wins?

One thing the Oscars can offer is exposure for things that would otherwise go unwatched by the masses. Short films screened for absolutely nobody can get bumped up to a good handful of people by an Oscar nom. Documentaries, too, can move from under the radar to blinking in someone’s peripheral vision and have the chance at a gold statue. Documentary filmmaking is filled with little guys trying to get their stories told, and the Oscars have a history of nominating things most people would never have heard of otherwise.

Except now, the Oscars are changing the documentary rules. According to the New York Times, a documentary film must now be reviewed in either the New York Times or the Los Angeles Times to be nominated. This means the film must have a somewhat significant theatrical release, something many documentaries cannot afford. The one branch of the Oscars to reach outside their little circle jerk and actually bring prominence and acclaim to something that otherwise would go unnoticed is about to be chopped off.

I love the red carpet. I love watching celebrities get together and chat each other up. I love when movies I care about win an Oscar. And I kind of loathe the part of myself that still yearns to tune in and watch Meryl Streep win just one more. Until the Academy decides it actually does want to award bloated blockbusters or strives for more diversity and support for minority filmmakers, it won’t be relevant to the lowest common denominator or the average American. It will only matter to film nerds like me, and even that doesn’t mean much.

Victoria Knobloch is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected].

View Comments (2)
More to Discover

Comments (2)

All Massachusetts Daily Collegian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • F

    Fire with FireFeb 24, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    Why is every root of the problem a white male? Why not encourage more women like yourself, who are strong and motivated, to go into film rather than complaining about the current make up. Is there a Hollywood conspiracy against women producers, and if so what is the reasoning?

  • C

    CaroleLyneFeb 24, 2012 at 12:33 am

    The Oscars are about the film industry elite acknowledging thier own. Just like the elitist in colleges acknowledge thier own writters, for thier letter perfect documents that when read by the common people is ah south bound cattle feed from a north heading cow. So when the all the colleges read every book ever written and honor those that actually make several million Euro’s in profit. and not bless those that are the current vogue in politically correct views.
    The public caste thier votes for movies at the boxoffice, while the rich collegians steal thiers from the taxoffice.
    Now ya all have the nice day