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The Oscars: Women and Black People and Horror Movies, Oh My!

The Oscars Logo

The Oscars have come under a lot of fire in recent years for their lack of diversity. Last week’s show appears to be the most diverse award show held yet. This of course is nothing new that I’m reporting here, as there’s been no shortage of coverage of these issues. I’m seeing plenty of coverage from those with specific interest in each respective area, but I haven’t seen anyone analyze the entirety of the diversity seen at this year’s awards show, its interconnectedness, and what it might actually mean.

Even so, I’m sure my observations are wholly unoriginal (I even had a friend who noticed the same things as well), and I’m sure someone else has in fact written about it, somewhere. Generally, if a highly-discussed subject or point of view is being covered at great length, especially on fellow horror sites, I tend not to like to regurgitate the same crap over and over, even when I have a strong opinion about something.

That’s just boring to me. And this is also because HL has never been about clicks, but saying something, only if there’s something actually worthwhile or fun to share. I’m not seeing anyone talking about this specific point overall in an article or over social media, so I think it’ll make for an interesting post.

Like I said, I’ve seen people speaking specifically to the concern for women, black people, and horror movies getting snubbed at The Oscars virtually since its inception, but not the fact that all three had a big presence at this year’s award show. While I didn’t see any nominees that didn’t deserve it on merit alone, I can’t speak to the motivations of the Academy’s voting members.

Whether the change is due to social pressure directly on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), there are simply new members in which have joined who have more open minds (this year’s members were 39% women and 30% people of color — see more stats and the member’s list here), or Hollywood itself is finally beginning to find a balance with more variety and inclusiveness (and therefore these being the only options for the Academy to vote on), the change is evident and I don’t think it’s a coincidence.

While it’s without a doubt awesome and important to see the likes of Marvel poring hundreds of millions of dollars into putting black and female superheroes on the big screen as opposed to more typical, white, male superheroes, horror has always been the champion of inclusiveness, for decades.

1968, yes, 50 years ago, marks one of the first movies to cast a black person as the hero.
Night of the Living Dead

1979, nearly 40 years ago, marks one of the first movies to cast a woman as the hero.

And countless other examples.

Horror has always been the underdog genre, seen as inferior to all others. It’s perhaps this oppression and attitude that attracted so many creative and interesting minds to begin with and that pushed those filmmakers to be so bold as to say fuck you, fuck you to “the man,” fuck you Hollywood, and fuck you society, and to give important roles to those others so often neglected by mainstream movies. And I can’t help, but wonder, if that created an even more vicious cycle in which those with bigoted minds sought to criticize and degrade the genre further.

Horror isn’t just unafraid of blood and gore, nudity, and profanity. It’s always been unafraid of commenting on society, and unafraid of women, black people, gay people, transgender people, and virtually every other kind of marginalized and oppressed person. Horror is the genre with the least amount of prejudice with no rules as to who can be killed off or who gets to be the hero, and yet manages to receive the most hate. Fear is universal, and often the monster is only defeated when people, regardless of their differences, band together to fight it. That theme is prevalent in both horror and actual change in society.

In Get Out (which won Best Original Screenplay), the monster or villain itself, is racism. And whether this is something you can relate to or not, Jordan Peele was able to make the audience feel that awkwardness, discomfort, and fear quite effectively.

Guillermo del Toro won Best Picture for The Shape of Water, whether you consider that movie to be in any way even related to or partly horror (I do).

While these are in no way the first horror movies to receive nominations or wins, it still feels like an important milestone collectively.

Perhaps The Oscars and award shows like it will never be perfect or maybe they’re even entirely botched and corrupt, this at least feels like an important beacon of a sign of the times. Times where people are demanding more democratization and fairness, where even if the powers that be are only “falling in line” for the appearance of open-mindedness and equality, I think that eventually leads to the genuine thing.

Change has always been a very gradual process and will undoubtedly continue to move at a less than ideal pace, but, and despite its many pitfalls, I think the global connectedness that has become a reality due to the advent of social media has greatly sped up a lot of those timetables.

I mean, if it wasn’t for the #MeToo movement, I highly, highly doubt that Harvey Weinstein would have been banned from The Oscars. But, that aggressiveness also sees people that perhaps shouldn’t “go away” caught in the crossfire. I mean some of these people that have been shamed really are, dead-to-rights, caught red-handed, gross and even criminal in some cases, some are perhaps just humans who made a dumb mistake like anyone could, and because of being famous, are scrutinized to witch hunt levels.

Then again, maybe that’s what has to happen? To get the worst of them, there has to be some innocents sacrificed, and that’s acceptable collateral? I don’t know anything for sure, but it feels like things are ultimately getting better. I’ve personally never thought of myself as being any better or valuable than anyone else, even people I don’t particularly like, but I also don’t really know anything nor have I really been anywhere. I can only try my best to understand and empathize, but my experience of the world is admittedly a very safe, cozy, and filtered one.

Maybe not everyone’s mind needs to be changed, just those in power, those with all the money? Hollywood is often criticized for becoming unoriginal, especially with the overuse of remaking movies. Perhaps if a more diverse group of filmmakers were given funding, we’d end up with fresh ideas that may just help with that stagnation and maybe even the bottom line? Even in a purely business-minded sense, that seems to make sense.

But, I don’t know; those are just my thoughts.

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Crypt Keeper at Halloween Love
I ♥ Halloween. I am the creator, editor, and keeper of Halloween Love. Although you'll find new creeps about helping me to maintain these macabre archives of dread. Reach me at black@halloweenlove.com.