In a patriarchal dystopia, once a year the public gathers for PR blitz that serves to solidify the foundations of this sexist society. This annual event celebrates narratives created by men, starring men, and produced by men with prestigious awards (golden men) bestowed by an organization made up of men. The messaging is clear: women’s stories don’t matter. Males attending this event, required to dress alike, are peppered with questions from journalists about their work while the females are encouraged to wear extravagant gowns to outdo each other. For the women, the competition is relegated to yet another beauty contest, where their looks– from hair to make-up to jewelry– are picked apart, the most common question: Who are you wearing? This ritual shuts down challenges or protests to the mantra of the civilization: Men are valued for what they do, women are valued for how they appear. This is the way it has always been and the way it will always be. It is human nature.
No, this is not a synopsis of Hunger Games 4, but the 87th Academy Awards, created by the good old United States of America, a country devoted to liberty and justice for all.
So how we explain this sexism? In 2015, 100% of the nominees for the greatest writers, the Best Adapted and Best Original Screenplay awards, the creators of our stories, are men. I really don’t get it. I thought girls were supposed to be verbal….
Cinematography– the eyes, the perspective, how we see– also 100% male nominees. What about the whole vision, the genius? The Best Director category is also made up of 100% males. No actor of color was nominated for both genders including the supporting actor category. A black woman has never never never been nominated for Best Director. This year Ava DuVernay was not chosen for her movie “Selma.”
Here’s a funny coincidence: The LA Times reports that the members the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the voting body, is 94 percent white, 2 percent African American, less than 2 percent Latino, and 77 percent male with the average age of 62. On Sunday night, the majority of winners will be middle aged white males.
Much has been written about the sexism and racism of the Academy Awards. I’m really blogging now to ask you to please consider not allowing your kids to see the show. Watching the Academy Awards is often a family event. It’s on early, a Sunday night, children are often lurking about. But this kind of TV is not mindless fun for kids; it’s one of the worst programs a child can take in. It’s not only the actual performance, where men win and win and win again, but the people watching in your living room, parents, relatives, friends, people who your kids look up to, will invariably be commenting on how the women look, who’s pretty, who’s neckline dips too low, and who looks too old ladyish. We are trained to judge and value women for how they appear, and if we can spare kids and their malleable brains this immersion in sexism, they will be better off for it. My advice is that if you’re watching the show, as I am, not to forbid your children from joining you because that will only make it appealing. Instead, distract them. Let them see a Miyazaki movie or something else good (links at the end of this post to great lists of Reel Girl’s recommended movies for kids) or set them up with an art project or have a friend over or play a board game if your spouse doesn’t want to watch (like mine.)
The alternative, if your child must watch, is to point out the sexism to her. Include her in Tweeting #AskHerMore every time you and she see an actress asked first, only, or mostly about her outfit. (I hope you will be Tweeting #AskHerMore if you’re watching at all) While Oscar media criticism can be educational for older kids, say 11 and up, I wouldn’t saddle younger ones with this vigilance. But I still advise not letting older kids watch. There’s the issue that you can’t control what other adults say, so unless you’re going to respond every time someone talks about how a woman looks, it’s better to have your kids out of the room. As parents, we need to do our best to create a world for our children that is the opposite of the one that the Academy Awards presents. We need to show them through conditioning that women’s stories are important.
The Academy’s snub of “Wild” really says it all.The star of the movie, Reese Witherspoon, is nominated for Best Actress and her co-star Laura Dern is nominated for Best Supporting Actress. “Wild” is beautifully directed by Jean-Marc Vallee, whose last movie, “Dallas Buyers Club,” was nominated for Best Picture and 4 other awards. In Slate, Dan Kois asks what’s the difference?
Well, Wild has sold more tickets. Wild is more artfully made—a more confident piece of filmmaking, one that finds an ingenious cinematic method to tell its intricate, emotional story. But the chief difference, of course, is that Wild is about a woman’s journey, not a man’s…
In some ways, the dismissal of Wild, and the frequent non-nomination of movies about women, calls to mind the ongoing debate in the literary world about the way critics and awards-givers dismiss “domestic fiction.” Wild is determinedly one woman’s story, and it doesn’t make a claim that Cheryl Strayed is an exceptional woman. She’s not a queen or a muse. She’s not a wife or a girlfriend. She’s flawed and sad in many of the same ways that all of us have been flawed and sad, especially in our early 20s. Her struggles are not world-historical but instead have to do with her mother, who dies unfairly early in life; with her ex-husband, whom she betrays again and again; with her body, which she numbs with heroin and casual sex, and then brutalizes hiking a thousand miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. Her struggle, in the end, is with herself.
That is to say, Cheryl’s story is a prototypical “woman’s story,” and thus one not worthy of a Best Picture nomination, apparently. In the past 20 years, only 21 movies that primarily tell the stories of women have been nominated for Best Picture, out of 125 movies nominated overall. This disparity reflects the reality of moviemaking in Hollywood, sure, but it also influences that reality. When the stories of women—those out in the world, living real human lives, existing not as auxiliary characters but as the heroes of their own stories—are deemed unsuitable of the industry’s biggest prize, it becomes harder to convince studios and producers to make those movies.
Teach your children that stories about girls and women matter. Don’t let them watch the Academy Awards.
Reel Girl rates the 87th Academy Awards ***SSS***
If you’re watching the Academy Awards on Sunday night, and you want to let your kids watch a movie, Reel Girl recommends the titles on these lists: