Arts & Media

Oscars 2020: How Greta Gerwig’s Directorial Snub Reflects a Troubling Pattern

Mirabella Miller ’23
Music Columnist/Staff Writer

The director of a movie is truly the mastermind behind it all, the puppeteer deftly pulling strings to make every moving piece serve its purpose in the creation of a finished project. In the case of Little Women, Greta Gerwig provided an unmistakably unique take on a story that has been through countless interpretations, seamlessly weaving together past-tense and present-tense narratives in the story through meticulous cinematic choices. Gerwig’s omission from the Best Director category is one of the most egregious (if not the single most egregious) snub of this year’s Academy Awards. Her exclusion leaves the category, once again, entirely populated by male nominees.

In Oscars history, only 14 movies directed by women have ever been nominated for Best Picture (two of which were directed by Gerwig). Out of those 14, only four were also nominated for Best Director. In contrast, every single director up for Best Director this year also had their movie nominated in the Best Picture category. In short, the work male directors bring to life gets recognized for its excellence but their individual contribution to that work also gets recognized for its excellence. This separation between female directors and the movies they are responsible for robs women of the personal recognition and potential career advancement that the Oscars have the capability to provide.

When Gerwig’s absence from the category is understood within this larger historical pattern of directorial nominees versus Best Picture nominees, it becomes obvious that the problem does not lie in the quality of movies directed by women but in an unwillingness to tether female directors to their art. Little Women is nominated for Best Picture, so there is no question that the Academy views the movie as an outstanding piece of film. Their issue seems to lie in their inability to deduce that Gerwig’s personal contribution itself is just as outstanding, whereas the quality and impact of directorial contribution is an assumed component of male-directed movies, as evidenced by the directorial nominees this year. This is reminiscent of a cultural assumption that men are competent until proven otherwise, while women are incompetent until proven otherwise.

The examination of this separation becomes even more interesting when the fact that two actresses were nominated for their roles in Little Women is brought into consideration. Saoirse Ronan was nominated for Best Actress for her portrayal of Jo March, while Florence Pugh was a contender for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Amy March. This demonstrates how women are often viewed as instruments to serve a greater interest and not conductors of those very orchestras, an assumption the Academy is actively upholding with their nomination choices. Women can be characters in stories but not storytellers themselves.

With its choice to separate film and director along gendered lines, the Academy is compromising the quality of the film industry for years to come. Until women are recognized in tandem with their art, it will remain incredibly difficult for aspiring female directors to identify role models and therefore place themselves within the film world, preventing a potentially more diverse range of stories from coming to light. The Academy’s sexist habit of decontextualization treats female-directed movies as if they just materialized out of nowhere instead of being the products of intense dedication and originality, showing how hesitant the Academy is to admit that multiple women each award season go above and beyond in demonstrating those traits in the projects they direct.

Image Source: Fortune

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