Oscars 2021 Representation Rundown

Oscars 2021

This year’s Oscar nominations included several historic firsts—making movie lovers and representation activists wonder if the Academy has finally made a serious effort to recognize the diverse talent in film. While Hollywood’s biggest night came with some notable feats for those underrepresented in the media, it also came with a twist ending. Below, we’ve rounded up the wins that signal some progress towards gender parity and the areas the Oscars definitely need to improve upon.

History Made with Nomadland 

Prior to Sunday night, only one woman had ever won an Oscar for Best Director and for directing a Best Picture film—Katheryn Bigelow for her war drama The Hurt Locker in 2008. Bigelow’s win shattered a glass ceiling but also reflected the limits women directors face at the Academy Awards. With only one-in-four Best Picture winners focusing on women’s experiences, this was yet another example of male-centered movies earning the spotlight. 13 years later, Chloe Zhao has become the second woman to win Best Director—and the first woman of color to receive the honor. 

Women of Color Taking Home the Prize

73 year old Yuh-Jung Youn stole our hearts as the loving and feisty grandmother in Minari. Youn nabbed a golden statue for her moving performance as supporting actress, making her the second Asian actress to win the award since 1957. Since then, Youn has made headlines for her hilarious acceptance speech, where she asked Brad Pitt (executive producer of Minari) “where were you while we were filming in person?” But Youn wasn’t the only one to deliver a memorable speech: Mia Neal and Jamika Nelson become the first Black women to win for Hair and Makeup. Neal said, ” I also stand here as Jamika and I break this glass ceiling with so much excitement for the future. Because I can picture Black trans women standing up here and Asian sisters and our Latina sisters and Indigenous women, and I know that one day it won’t be unusual or groundbreaking; it will just be normal.”

Still Work To Be Done

Steven Yeun’s Minari performance landed him a Best Actor nom, becoming the first Korean American nominated in the category. Riz Ahmed, nominated for Best Actor for Sound of Metal, is the first actor of Pakistani descent and the second person of South Asian descent to be nominated.With the two having expanded what it looks like to be a “leading man,” and were two of the three men of color nominated in the category,  the Oscar missed an opportunity to make history.

While women of color walked away with several awards, we can’t ignore that in the Oscars 93 years, no Latinx or Asian actresses have won for Best Actress. Hopefully, in the coming years that will change.

Take Action! Learn where to stream Nomadland and other Oscar winners HERE. And continue to hold the Academy accountable! Support diverse and inclusive films at the box office (or with you streaming dollars).