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The Oscars Accidentally Remind Us How White They Are, Over and Over Again

The Academy Awards releases its annual class photo of the 95th Oscar nominees

On Monday, nominees for the 95th Academy Awards gathered at the Beverly Hilton for the annual Oscars luncheon. The luncheon is held to celebrate the year’s Academy Award nominees and to allow them to mingle with one another and figures from the Academy before the official ceremony. Additionally, the luncheon is the place where the annual Oscars “class photo” is taken. The class photo shows off each year’s nominees by gathering them all together in a single snapshot. The luncheon and class photo were temporarily canceled during the 2021 COVID-19 pandemic but were brought back last year.

The class photo is always a bit awkward, seeing as it gathers all of these vastly different people together and tries to capture them all at their best in a single shot. Meanwhile, the photo is usually missing several faces every year due to some nominees being unable to attend, making it incomplete most of the time. For example, Andrea Riseborough was noticeably absent from this year’s luncheon, potentially due to the controversy surrounding her nomination.

However, this year, the photo attracted attention for another reason other than being awkward or missing nominees. The one thing you can’t miss when looking at the photo is just how white it is. Of course, given that the photo is quite large and difficult to focus on, the ethnicity of every nominee is difficult to detect on an individual level, but it can’t be denied that there were shockingly few Black nominees this year, and a quick glance at the photo is pretty telling.

The Oscars remind of us how white they are … again

A view of the Oscar display before the announcement of the 95th Academy Award nominations at Samuel Goldwyn Theater on January 24, 2023 in Beverly Hills, California.
(Emma McIntyre/WireImage)

This year’s Oscars class photo accidentally and embarrassingly showed just how white the awards ceremony is with a visual representation. It didn’t take long for Twitter users to notice the lack of Black nominees in the picture. Several users invited others to see how many Black nominees they could spot in the photo. The final count differed but ranged from a meager 4–8, according to commenters.

Other users likened the photo to Where’s Waldo—yes, the series of illustrated children’s puzzle books in which the reader must pick out a hidden Waldo from within a vast group of people. Others found unique photos to represent exactly how the Oscars photo looked.

What’s particularly sad is that the photo reminded viewers of how white the Oscars is, but it didn’t actually need a reminder. After all, this is the award show that sparked the viral social media hashtag #OscarsSoWhite back in 2015, after they gave ALL of their acting nominations to white actors. The hashtag ended up going viral and has resurfaced on almost a yearly basis as the Academy continuously fails to break its old habits. This year was a particularly strong example of the ceremony’s lack of diversity, as it noticeably snubbed two acclaimed films with predominantly Black casts and crews.

The 95th Oscars snubbed The Woman King and Till

The Oscars had already gained attention for its lack of diversity when the nominations were first announced in January. It didn’t take viewers long to realize that The Woman King and Till received zero nods from the Oscars, despite being very strong films. Both were historical dramas, with The Woman King retelling the story of the Dahomey Amazons, female warriors from the Dahomey kingdom who served as a military regiment from the 17th to the 19th century. Meanwhile, Till tells the story of Emmett Till (Jalyn Hall), a 14-year-old boy horrifically beaten and murdered by white supremacists, and his mother Mamie Till’s (Danielle Deadwyler) fight for justice.

Both films received over 90% on Rotten Tomatoes and scooped up nominations and awards at such prestigious shows as the Critics’ Choice Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Grammy Awards, NAACP Image Awards, and Screen Actors Guild Awards. Viola Davis and Danielle Deadwyler were especially singled out for praise for their masterful performances in The Woman King and Till, respectively.

Despite all of this, these actresses were snubbed in The Best Actress category at the Oscars, and their respective films were shut out of the Oscars entirely without a single nomination. Meanwhile, Riseborough’s surprise nomination for Best Actress only further raised indignation when she nabbed the nomination after a celebrity-fueled campaign. Viewers couldn’t help but wonder if Viola or Deadwyler might have taken her place if not for the campaign, as well as where a similar campaign was for these two talented actresses.

There seems to be no clear explanation for Till’s and The Woman King’s snub. They clearly met all of the standards and typical qualifications for a nomination. Meanwhile, films like Avatar: The Way of Water and Top Gun: Maverick, which were much less historically significant and impactful, nabbed nominations with no problem. The snub seems to be one of many, many reminders of how little progress the Academy Awards has made in the area of diversity, even after the infamous #OscarsSoWhite.

(featured image: Richard Harbaugh / ©A.M.P.A.S.)

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Rachel Ulatowski is a Freelance Writer, blogger, and aspiring author. As a Freelancer Writer she hopes to give readers the same comfort and enjoyment that she finds in all things nerdy and noteworthy, as a blogger she enjoys snarking on YouTubers and reality stars, and as a future novelist she hopes to raise awareness for child abuse through literature.