Who Cares About the Oscars?

As we transition into the hot summer months, I am looking forward to taking refuge inside cool air-conditioned movie theaters. To me, there isn’t a much better pastime than slipping into someone else’s story for a little while. Movies can create a window into another world or hold up a mirror to show us a reflection of a part of ourselves. But many people still don’t see themselves represented in film, especially not in the films that get the most attention from institutions like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Awards, and its most high-profile manifestation the Academy Awards or Oscars. It begs the question: How do the Oscars even work? And do these awards matter?

Who is Being Nominated?

March is Women’s History Month and I've got to say that despite recent historic Oscar wins, not much has changed for female representation in Hollywood.

 The nominees for best directors, actors, and all the other categories are decided by other people who work within those categories; actors nominate actors, directors nominate directors, etc. The Oscars website, opens a new window and this Screenrant article, opens a new window explain the process. The directors' branch of the Academy has only 587 voters. Only a quarter, opens a new window of these voters are women. With about 10,000 members of the Academy eligible to vote for the Best Picture nominees, less than 20%, opens a new window of the voters are people of color.

This might explain why, for the most part, women and people of color still aren’t being recognized for their work. But there have been some wins for women in the past few years. 2021 was the first time that two women were nominated for best director at the same time and only the second time that a woman has won in that category. Director Chloé Zhao’s win for the movie Nomadland was also historic because she is the first woman of color, opens a new window to win this award. Nomadland, opens a new window also won the Oscar for best picture, “the first best picture winner ever to be totally focused on women, opens a new window.” In 2022, Jane Campion won best director for the movie The Power of the Dog, opens a new window, only one of three total wins for women in this category in the nearly 100-year history of the Oscars. However, in 2023 no women were nominated for best director.

As stated, this, unfortunately, reflects the statistics. Of the 111 directors hired to make the 100 top-grossing movies last year, just 9% were women, opens a new window--a percentage that has actually decreased from previous years. The percentage of women of color in directing is down to 2.7%.

This might also explain why in 2024 only 1 out of 5 best director nominees is a woman. In what is considered a snub, opens a new window, Greta Gerwig, who directed the hugely popular and highest-grossing film of 2023, Barbie, opens a new window, is not one of the nominees. All three of Gerwig’s solo directing efforts have been nominated for best picture.

Does it make sense that the lead actor nominated for an Oscar in a movie called Barbie was not the actor playing Barbie, but the actor playing Ken, opens a new window?

Though the Oscars have come a long way since Hattie McDaniel, opens a new window, the first black woman to win an Oscar, was forced to sit separately from her peers and costars, there is still a long way to go. A recent Twitter campaign #OscarsSoWhite, opens a new window drew attention to “the fact that 92 percent of top film directors were men and 86 percent of top films featured white actors, opens a new window”. Among those working toward making media more inclusive, is the G, opens a new windoweena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, opens a new window. This group is focused not only on inclusion but on how diverse groups are represented in film.

Which Movies Are Being Nominated?

Historically, the Academy is not a fan of genre movies. Comedies, sci-fi, fantasy, high-budget action films, and other genres that are seen as less prestigious than drama films are often overlooked. I’m not just mentioning it because it’s my favorite genre... but out of the 601 films, opens a new window ever nominated for best picture, only six horror films, opens a new window have ever been nominated, with only one winner, Silence of the Lambs, opens a new window

But things are slowly changing. Everything Everywhere All At Once, opens a new window, a beautiful and strange science fiction film by young millennial directors, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, was a huge departure from the type of film that is normally nominated at the Oscars. And it won Best Picture and Best Director(s) in 2023. Michelle Yeoh, who starred in the film, was the first Asian actress to win the Best Actress award. In 2024, Barbie and Poor Things, opens a new window made it onto the list of nominees for Best Picture which could be a sign that the Academy may continue to give original and unconventional films a chance.

As a new generation of filmmakers and actors join the ranks of the Academy, maybe things will change, slowly but surely in a more inclusive, diverse, and interesting direction.

Why Does Inclusivity Matter?

In 2024 Lily Gladstone made history as the first Native American actor to be nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her work in the movie Killers of the Flower Moon, based on the bestselling book of the same title, opens a new window. Gladstone explains very well why this type of win is important, and who it is for: “Every little rez kid, every little urban kid, every little Native kid out there who has a dream to see themselves represented and our stories told by ourselves in our own words.” , opens a new window

I don’t personally buy into the glitz and glam of award shows but being awarded an Oscar has a lot of benefits, opens a new window including name recognition. Winning an Oscar leads to more work for actors and film studios. The lack of diversity in the winners leads to a lack of diversity in the movies that are made.

People are more likely to see a film if it earns favorable reviews. As of 2022, there were nearly twice as many men reviewing movies as women. Female critics tend to review more films directed by women than their male counterparts. More alarmingly, men tend to review movies with female leads less favorably than women do. Research by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, opens a new window has shown that this has a proven effect, opens a new window on the types of films that receive critical attention and media coverage.

The more movie-goers seek out unique and ground-breaking movies the more likely we are to see those movies celebrated in the way they should be.


Obviously, we can’t go to the movies every day. Luckily for all of us movie lovers, Harris County Public Library gives us free access to the movies we love and books about them! You can log in to Kanopy,, opens a new window HCPL's free streaming service, with your library card number and PIN to find great movies and more from the past and present.

Do you have any predictions or favorites for this Oscar season? Tell us in the comments below!

Books about Film History 

The Film Book

This Was Hollywood


Women in the Film Industry 

The Female Gaze

The Wrong Kind of Women

The Queens of Animation

Hitchcock's Blondes

Diversity in Hollywood

The Hollywood Jim Crow

Hollywood Black

Hattie McDaniel


Looking for something Funny? Criticism of popular movies

Movies (and Other Things)

Shit, Actually

Luke Skywalker Can't Read

This blog was written by Sarah G. and first appeared in June 2021. The blog was updated by the author in March 2024.