In the 92 years since the Oscars came to be, a total of five women have been nominated for Best Director. Only one of those five actually won.
In a perhaps predictable turn of events, there were zero female Best Director nominations for the upcoming Oscars. Though an abundance of female directors exist, it’s disappointing — but unfortunately not surprising — to see when impactful, non-male directors of the year practically never even make the ballot.
Many pivotal films of 2019 were directed by women, including "Little Women," "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood," "Booksmart," "Queen and Slim" and more.
It’s hard to imagine how Little Women could be recognized in multiple categories — Best Picture, Best Lead Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay and Costume Design — but somehow Gerwig was still left out of Best Director for one of the most acclaimed films of the year.
In 2020, we are still seeing too few deserving non-male directors — including women of color, individuals within the transgender community, people who may not conform or identify with gender binaries, and other marginalized groups — nominated for the Oscar.
At the same time, this Oscars season was record-breaking regarding women nominees, given that women secured one third of the Academy’s nominations. Though it's encouraging to see that number of nominations grow, the film industry is setting the bar low if they consider that a statistic to celebrate.
The 2020 nominations for Best Director celebrated many canonized male directors, many of whom pursued projects through male perspectives, based on largely male perspectives. Now, it’s not to say these directors don’t deserve nominations — those in this category have created films that many found outstanding. But still, non-male directed films that may be just as excellent and valuable often don't receive as much, if any, widespread recognition among the “best of the best.”
Additionally,, it's just as important to highlight that the majority of nominations have also been for white people. The only woman of color to be nominated for an Oscar in the “Lead Actress” category this season is Cynthia Erivo, who acted in “Harriet” as Harriet Tubman.
According to Indiewire in 2019, fewer than 200 black “creatives” have been nominated across all categories since the creation of the Oscars, out of the approximately 10,000 total nominations. Obviously, the racial disparities as a whole within Oscar nominations don’t end there, either.
While this certainly isn’t true for all male-directed movies, many just aren’t created with the considerations of women in mind — these often end up being films that lack perspective and experiences beyond the male lens.
The male perspective has been the perspective to dominate the film industry. Though progress for women in film continues to grow, many of the most highly acclaimed acclaimed films are built upon that reality, even if the film is supposed to heavily include or center around women.
Society often seems to think that when a male directs a movie that critics are talking about, it’s automatically important. It’s innovative, or about society as a whole, or it’s a statement — something among the sort. But when a woman directs films — many of which are also moving, sophisticated, intense and artistic — they don’t always receive the same praise or approval so quickly, if at all.
This mindset can be discouraging for women, girls and beyond who aspire to become directors, or significant figures within the film industry. If women don’t feel their work is worthy or valuable, how can we expect so many of them to even want to keep creating?
Women who create exceptional work can, and will, continue standing up for the recognition they deserve. With that, though, we must always keep in mind that working toward such progress takes time. If many male directors and industry professionals continue to remain silent on this disparity, it will take something that is already overdue far too long to change.
In 2020, it would be naive to say that perspectives beyond the straight, cisgender, able-bodied and generally privileged white male just don't exist. Not making space for a deserving female director like Gerwig — or, really, any deserving director who doesn't fit that experience in at least one aspect — is choosing to withhold the entire scope of directing over the past year, and how those contributions have influenced cinema.
Watching a film can be a very personal experience. Frequently, films portray plots and storylines that viewers can relate to, which is often a gratifying feeling. That’s something that can resonate with all types of people, but tends to be uniquely impactful for communities underrepresented within the film industry — people who want to witness the validation of stories they can relate to on the silver screen. For many who identify with women’s experiences, Gerwig’s “Little Women” provided this connection of relatability and allowed many viewers to feel “seen.”
The world is made up of much more than just men and their experiences. It's time for the Academy — arguably society's most superior judges of film — to consistently place value on this sentiment when determining which directors are worthy of going down in history as the "best of the best."