When the Oscar nominations were released last week, there was much discussion and attention to the glaring lack of diversity among the nominees, specifically in the acting categories. While a more diverse body of actors and creators is certainly needed, and ultimately reflects the lack of diversity in the entertainment industry overall, there was little attention given to the fact that none of the Best Picture nominees are about women or the lives of women. I have yet to see American Sniper, Selma, or The Imitation Game, but as far as I can tell from the marketing these three films revolve around men. Sienna Miller stars alongside Bradley Cooper in Sniper, but again, it’s a focus on him, the sniper (it’s in the friggin’ title…same with Birdman…and Boyhood). Keira Knightley was nominated for The Imitation Game, but in the Best Supporting Actress category. The only minor exception to this is Felicity Jones’ Best Actress nomination for The Theory of Everything. As great as she is here, and plays a complex woman with her own struggles (but strength too), the film is ultimately a story about Stephen Hawking. The film does, however, give more equal weight to both characters and how their relationship builds and adapts to the situation at hand. According to the Bechdel Test, four of the eight movies pass, but narrowly, so clearly we have a situation going on here.
So, what does this mean for the current state of film? I’m not sure, because there were films last year that managed to showcase females. Obvious Child comes to mind. “Controversial” subject matter aside, it was a much more modest film in budget and release, but an honest and hilarious story about a young woman, and a great female friendship to boot. On the other end of the spectrum, you have one of the biggest box office hits in The Hunger Games. Both of these films were critically well received, so what gives, Academy? Perhaps this is due to the fact that the Academy is mostly made up of men. Or maybe it digs deeper at the limited amount of women who are able to get their projects made. Either way, there’s still plenty of progress to be made for women to have more of a presence in the shape of multi-dimensional and authentic women.