Despite a year of reckoning and rabble-rousing in Hollywood, the Academy Award nominees this year are disappointingly familiar—because they’re overwhelmingly white and male.
According to new research from the Women’s Media Center, only 25 percent percent of this year’s nominations in 19 non-acting categories were female. Women were also completely shut out of five of the most prestigious of those categories—Best Director, Best Cinematographer, Best Original Score, Best Visual Effects and Best Editor.
Women’s names are also a rarity within this year’s writing categories: Deborah Davis was the only woman recognized in the Best Original Screenplay category this year, for her work on The Favourite, and Nicole Holofcener was the only woman nominated in the Best Adapted Screenplay category, for Can You Ever Forgive Me? Seven men were nominated alongside Davis, and 11 alongside Holofcener.
“A nomination for an Academy Award can open doors,” Jane Fonda declared when asked about the WMC study. “With three out of every four non-acting nominations going to men, women, again, are missing that stamp of approval.”
The frustrating gender gap in Oscar nods this year is compounded by some slights in plain sight. Holofcener’s directorial work for Can You Ever Forgive Me? was not recognized with a nomination, despite her nomination for writing the screenplay. After making history as the first woman nominated for Best Cinematographer for her work on Mudbound, Rachel Morrison did not receive any recognition for her work on the widely acclaimed Black Panther—which was nominated in seven categories this year.
But progress is possible in the entertainment industry, and some of the milestones mixed into this year’s pool of nominees are proof. Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma had two historical nominations this year—Gabriela Rodriguez is the first Latina to be nominated as a producer for Best Picture, and Yalitza Aparicio is the first Indigenous woman to be nominated for Best Actress—and the film is fostering progress for domestic workers around the world. Black Panther, the first film based on a comic book to ever be nominated for Best Picture, features a predominately Black cast, including a legendary crew of warrior women. Six categories this year were also at least 50 percent female: Best Documentary Feature, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Live Action Short and Best Animated Short.
The past few years have shown historic gains in diversity among Academy members, especially in the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s fall from grace. But today, only 39 percent of Academy members are women, all but 16 percent are white and most members remain past Oscar winners and nominees. Closing race and gender gaps in Academy Awards nominations requires more conscious efforts to diversify the body—and more deliberate attempts to tell new stories from Hollywood.