Oscars 2020 Representation Recap

Despite an incredibly white and male awards season, the 92nd annual Oscars delivered a few surprising historical firsts. In a year filled with films about the mores of white masculinity, South Korean thriller Parasite delightfully swept the Academy Awards—taking the Best Picture prize over acclaimed films such as Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Irishman, and Joker. Bong Joon Ho’s film about South Korea’s stark class divide became the first non-English language film to win Best Picture in the Oscars’ 92-year history. While Parasite took home top honors, the lack of women and people of color at the Academy Awards is still glaring—even five years after #OscarsSoWhite.    

The ceremony opened with a musical number from Janelle Monae, surrounded by dancers dressed as characters from some of this year’s snubbed films—the “cast” of Dolemite is My Name, Us, and Queen & Slim all represented in the routine. With zero women directors nominated and only one woman of color acknowledged in all acting categories, Monae came with a special message. 

“Tonight we celebrate all the amazing talent in this room. We celebrate all the women who directed phenomenal films. And I’m so proud to stand here as a black queer artist telling stories. Happy Black History Month.”

Monae wasn’t the only one to pay homage to those overlooked by the Academy. Natalie Portman gave not-so-subtle shade to awards voters by wearing a cape embroidered with the names of female directors who were left out this year. Inclusion and representation were mostly relegated to tokenism and jokes—with the ceremony itself heralding diversity in presenters and performers, many of whom comically ridiculed the Academy’s legacy of homogeneity as a way to validate the critiques of fed up audiences. 

It was notable that on the technical side, the awards for Best Hair & Makeup and Best Costume Design went to women-centered films Bombshell and Little Women, respectively. And in his acceptance speech for winning the Oscar for Best Sound Mixing for Ford v Ferrari, Donald Sylvester thanked his wife and acknowledged her for giving up her career as an editor to raise the couple’s children.

After a few knocks to the ceremony’s history of homogeneous nominees, a series of predictable wins followed. Brad Pitt took home Best Supporting Actor for his role in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, while Renee Zellweger scored Best Lead Actress for Judy

Though Joker had the most nominations of the night, it only managed to score two trophies. Hildur Guðnadóttir notably was the first woman to win for Best Original Score for her work, while Joaquin Phoenix landed Best Actor for his portrayal of the demented clown. Phoenix, who hasn’t failed to deliver political speeches during his many acceptances this season, reminded the rich and powerful in the room of their role in a range of injustices. “We’re talking about the fight against the belief that one people, one race, one gender, one species has the right to dominate, control, use, and exploit another with impunity.”

Take Action! Let’s end the 2020 award season on a hopeful note. Join us in celebrating the representation of natural black hair in the Academy Award-winning animated short film Hair Love. After watching it for free on YouTube, learn how you can help pass the CROWN Act in all 50 states.