Representation Recap: 2023 Oscars

Academy Award statue and movie clapper against black background

While the 2023 Oscar nominations had some historic potential, there were plenty of reminders that the award show has a long history of exclusion. It was astounding that no women were nominated in the Best Director category after a year of incredible films by talented women filmmakers. Despite the continued lack of recognition given to underrepresented creators, there were certainly still moments to celebrate from Hollywood’s biggest night. We’ve rounded up a couple wins that signal progress–and also noted where there is room for improvement.

Celebrating Superheroes

When we say representation matters, we mean it both on screen and behind-the-scenes. As a costume designer, Ruth E. Carter brings films to life through unique wardrobes and styling. Carter impeccably accomplished this with her work on Black Panther (2018) and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022). At this year’s show, she was once again awarded Best Costume Design for her work, making Carter the first Black woman to win multiple Oscars in any category. In her speech, she thanked the Academy for “recognizing this superhero that is a Black woman.” 

A Multiverse Worth of Awards

Everything Everywhere All At Once has had an incredible award season. It is now the most awarded film in history with over 158 accolades, including seven new Oscars. Both Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan were honored in acting categories for their performances as spouses and, really, any other role the multiverse had in mind. Awarded Best Actress, Yeoh made history as the first Asian performer to win in the category. Quan is the second Asian performer to win Best Supporting Actor.

While Yeoh and Quan’s individual awards were historic, the eccentric sci-fi film’s Best Picture win is also significant. As our newly published Oscars Report finds, Best Picture winners are predominantly by and about white men. A film that centers the life of a woman of color over the age of 50 is worth celebrating for numerous reasons. In 94 years of Best Picture winners, women make up just 27% of leads. Of the films that feature women leads, leading women of color are virtually nonexistent in winning films (2.9%), and women leads over 50 are vastly underrepresented as well (5.9%). As a film that also features LGBTQ+ themes and centers an Asian American immigrant family, Everything Everywhere All At Once is truly in a class of its own.

But There Is Still Work To Be Done

While we celebrate these ground-breaking new Oscar winners, we are also reminded of just how long it has taken to get here. Halle Berry won Best Actress in 2002, making her the first woman of color to win the award. Over two decades later, we finally have the second woman of color winner in Yeoh. It took nearly 40 years for Quan to become the second Asian man to win Best Supporting Actor. In 95 years, Carter is the only Black woman to win more than one Oscar. 

Once again, we can’t ignore that zero women were nominated for Best Director this year, snubbing critically-acclaimed woman-directed films like The Woman King (likely due to blatant misogynoir of at least one voter). Hopefully, we’ll see even greater inclusion of underrepresented stories and storytellers in future years.

Take Action! Join us in celebrating the work of Ruth E. Carter and the Everything Everywhere All At Once team. Continue to support historically excluded storytellers and their work. Learn where you can watch this year’s Oscar nominees and winners HERE.