Every year, when nominations are released and ceremonies are covered with wartime intensity, I am reminded of how much I hate awards season. Symbols of Hollywood’s unending interest in exploring the white male perspective onscreen and the female body on the red carpet, awards shows summarize the entertainment industry in just three hours. This year, like every year, the Golden Globe nominees are overwhelmingly white. The women nominated are mostly young, thin, and classically attractive. And the majority of behind-the-scenes voices are male. Though Hollywood’s homogeneity may be not be new to most people, I think it is always important to note, especially given that many mainstream media outlets that cover awards shows do not comment on the glaring lack of diversity.
Combining the Best Actress and Actor categories, for both comedic and dramatic films, Halle Berry’s nomination for Frankie and Alice is the only one for a person of color. In the Best Director category, no women are nominated. And though the Best Television Series (Musical or Comedy) category includes several shows with female protagonists (30 Rock, The Big C, Nurse Jackie), all of these protagonists, along with much of their ensemble casts, are white. Though diversity in awards varies ever year, the same overarching patterns remain consistent. Tracking diversity in numbers in awards shows from year to year can be a surface measure of progress in the most wide-reaching of media outlets (even though it leaves untouched the more complicated issue of film and television content). Every year, my conclusion is the same: the 21st Century is not, in fact, a ‘post-racial’ world with complete gender equality, and Hollywood reflects this reality.
Working at SWSG over the summer, I thought consistently about how mainstream media impact young people. SWSG caters to a diverse group of young girls, many of whom likely do not see women like themselves walking the red carpet. Watching awards season reaffirms my belief not just in supporting independent filmmakers who produce alternative content, but also in the importance of teaching media literacy and criticism to young people. For example, the Media Education Foundation (MEF) is a non-profit that produces documentary films that challenge a wide range of stereotypes and tropes in mass media. Among their many films are Generation M: Misogyny in Media Culture and Mickey Mouse Monopoly: Disney, Childhood, and Corporate Power. Additionally, they offer handouts and study guides to accompany their films in the classroom. MEF is a great example of a way to give people, young and old, the tools to think critically about media, even if we simultaneously enjoy what we watch.