Why #BAFTAsSoWhite isn’t a joke, and why nobody is laughing.
On the 7th of January, just days after the Golden Globe Awards ceremony, the world was made privy to the hotly anticipated nominations for this year’s BAFTA awards. And, though it must be taken as a given that, when it comes to awards ceremonies based around celebrating the achievements of an industry that works to surreptitiously and systematically exclude the efforts of minorities, in spite of its overt attempts to pretend otherwise (yes, mandatory ‘diversity criteria’, I’m looking at you), it’s always good practice to manage your expectations. But, even given this predetermined lowering of expectations, it’s hard- in fact, I’d even go as far as to say impossible- to view this season’s nomination efforts as anything aside from utterly abysmal. In the same year that we were gifted the performances, debuts, and- in some cases- career bests of Lupita Nyong’o, Awkwafina, Ana de Armas, Jennifer Lopez, Zhao Shuzhen (to name merely a few personal favorites), it strikes me that nominating the same white woman twice in the same category is so grossly misguided a choice that it defies belief.
And when we begin to dissect the content of the work itself, the farce deepens: for Margot Robbie to be nominated twice in the category of ‘Best Supporting Actress’ would feel at best unnecessary given the talent that must therefore be snubbed in order for her to occupy two spaces; but for Robbie to have received a nomination for her part in Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ at all is just bizarre. For the entire duration of the painfully lengthy 2 hour and 45 minute feature film, Robbie herself only features on screen for a measly 30 minutes- and she speaks even less. Add into the mix Tarantino’s questionable personal standpoints on sexual abuse, one car crash of a press conference in which Robbie herself had to pick up the slack and explain the decisions of the director sat beside her, who petulantly refused to answer a question that targeted his decision to more-or-less silence Robbie’s character, along with the fact that Tarantino admitted to actually editing more of Robbie into the final cut of the film (yikes) after said claims, it’s difficult to understand how this role can possibly be considered award-worthy, let alone worthy of denying other talent.
Equally, the twice-nominated Scarlett Johanson is no stranger to points of contention as a result of her roles: with a habit for accepting parts she has no right to, Johansson has faced backlash for numerous roles she has accepted, such as the 2017 film Ghost in the Shell, which exhibits a blatant example of whitewashing a Japanese character, as well as the more recent 2018 incident in which Johansson was set to play a trans character in drama film Rub and Tug- a project she exited just a week after her casting was announced as a result of the voices of dissent and outrage in the trans community and beyond. Yet, her dual-nomination at the BAFTAS speaks to a culture of forgive-and-forget that seems only to extend to the privileged white woman, whose reputation remains untarnished and whose accomplishments continue to remain most note-worthy- however inconceivably. So what do these discrepancies actually mean, and what consequence can they actually have, when 2 white women receive 2 nominations each at the same awards ceremony, and once again we find the efforts of minorities snubbed, shunned and overlooked? Well, we know that for BAFTA directors to continue feigning powerlessness is no longer good enough. If it is this stubborn and narrow path that they hope to continue along, where prejudice and privilege is championed, perhaps it is time we stopped listening. The BAFTAS may remain ignorant, steadfast and unchanged, but they have not and will not remain unchallenged. The world is speaking up and taking note- and it doesn’t seem to like what it sees.