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The Daily Tar Heel

Editorial: “Little Women” and the issue of sexism in Hollywood

On Monday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its nominations for the 92nd Academy Awards, which will be held on Feb. 9. Unsurprisingly, the Academy continued its pattern of recognizing predominantly white, male talent. 

Though Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of “Little Women” was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture, Gerwig did not receive a directing nomination. In fact, there were no female directing nominees at all. Other female directors, including Lulu Wang (“The Farewell”) and Lorene Scafaria (“Hustlers”), were also absent from the list of nominees.

In the 92-year history of the Oscars, only five women have been nominated for best director, including Gerwig herself in 2017 for “Lady Bird.” The only woman to win the award is Kathryn Bigelow, who was honored for “The Hurt Locker” a decade ago. 

According to new research from the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California, more than 10 percent of the directors on last year’s top films were women, more than twice as many as in 2018 and the highest number in over a decade. 

Yet female filmmakers were snubbed across the board by m ajor awards shows this season; there were no female nominees for best director, screenplay or motion picture at this year’s Golden Globes. This reflects a larger inability to see women as auteurs, the masterminds behind these works of art, even when it comes to telling their own stories.

The Academy doesn’t seem to think that “Little Women” was a bad film — it was nominated for six awards, including Best Picture. But does the Academy think “Little Women” directed itself? Apparently so.

“Little Women,” is a spectacular film, unapologetically made for and about women. It’s only the third Best Picture nominee to be produced, written and directed by women. Breaking with its title, “Little Women” portrays women and their dreams as anything but small. It empowers its female characters, who demand a world in which women are seen as full human beings. A world in which, married or not, they are enough; they are worthy of their own success.

The repeated exclusion of female nominees is proof of that. Unfortunately, the fact that the movie is openly a tribute to women seems to be the problem, as many men are simply unwilling to watch a “woman’s picture” in the first place. 

Meanwhile, Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino, who directed “The Irishman” and “Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood,” respectively, were nominated for movies in which its female characters were only given a handful of lines. 

Frankly, it’s not surprising that women continue to be shut out of the Oscars. It’s a systemic problem that begins with the lack of diversity in Hollywood itself — the Oscar voting pool is 68 percent male and 84 percent white, according to academy data. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay. 

Amy March, portrayed by Academy Award nominee Florence Pugh, said it best: “The world is hard on ambitious girls.”

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