Representation Rundown: The 94th Academy Awards

Oscar Awards

The 94th Academy Awards were eventful, to say the least. The awards show was preceded by historic nominations, from Ariana DeBose being the first openly queer women of color nominated to Jane Campion becoming the first woman director to be nominated twice. Given the Academy’s public commitment to honoring on-screen and behind-the-scenes diversity in recent years, we had high hopes for the event. Did the Oscars meet them? “Hollywood’s Biggest Night” certainly delivered a few representation wins, although there is still a ways to go

Ariana DeBose Kicks Off The Night

Ariana DeBose’s Best Supporting Actress win for her performance as Anita in West Side Story (2021) set the tone for a night of women making Oscars history. Ahead of the show, DeBose made headlines for being the first openly queer woman of color nominated for an acting Oscar, and the first Afro-Latina. Her acceptance speech was powerful in reminding us of the importance of representation. She shared: “To anybody who has ever questioned your identity ever, ever, ever, or you find yourself living in the gray spaces, I promise you this: There is indeed a place for us.

CODA Sweeps The Show

CODA received three Oscar nominations and won all of them. The film’s win streak started with Troy Kotsur, who was awarded Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Frank Rossi. Kotsur is the first deaf man to win an acting Oscar and the second actor overall. The first was his co-star Marlee Matlin in Children of God (1987). Kotsur affirmed his win as a win for his community: “This [award] is dedicated to the Deaf community, to the CODA community, to the disabled community. This is our moment.” CODA’s win for Best Picture is also significant. Our 2022 Oscar Report found that just 3.1% of Best Picture winners were directed by a woman. CODA director, Sian Heder, is a new addition to the list.

We Have to Talk About Megan

No, Megan Thee Stallion did not win an Oscar over the weekend, nor was she even nominated. Stallion did make history as the first woman rapper to perform at the Academy Awards. She joined the Encanto cast for a star-studded performance of “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” adding a surprise rap verse. Stallion shared that the next time she attends the Oscars, she hopes to leave with an award of her own.

Women Directors Are Finally Getting Recognized

Just three women have won Best Director at the Academy Awards: Kathryn Bigelow in 2010 for The Hurt Locker, Chloe Zhao in 2021 for Nomadland, and Jane Campion this weekend for The Power of the Dog. We are thrilled to see that this number is growing and that women directors are finally getting recognized for their artistry. Campion later shared that she is enthusiastic by the future of women in film: “I think we’re going to see a lot more of exciting film coming from women. So that makes me excited.”

There Is Still Work To Be Done

Hollywood still has a long way to go in terms of representation. Our latest Oscar Report finds that no Best Picture winning film has ever been led by a Black, South Asian, Indigenous, MENA, LGBTQ+, or fat woman. In addition to this, it has been 61 years since a Latina last won an acting Oscar; it has been 35 years since a deaf actor last won an acting Oscar. We do not want to see decades pass for performers in underrepresented communities to be recognized by the Academy. Hopefully, in the coming years, we will see more progress.

Take Action! Continue to hold the Academy accountable with #OscarsSoWhite and #OscarsSoMale. Support diverse films in the theatre and on streaming services. Learn where to stream CODA and other Oscar winners HERE.