BYU faculty, students comment on women in film, Oscar nominations

(Video made by Andrea Zapata and Emma Keddington)

BYU students reacted to the 2022 Oscars nominations, talking about the importance of female representation and gender equality in the film industry.

“The Oscars are the most high-profile movie awards in the United States, so the nominations are some indication of what Hollywood — and to some extent, the world cinema — is up to these days,” BYU media arts critical studies area head Benjamin Thevenin said.

Most of the BYU students interviewed admitted to not having seen or even heard of the films that were nominated this year for best picture.

However, some students expressed their interest in the awards show and said they planned on looking at the list of nominees to decide what new movies were worth watching.

“I think that the Oscars are like the Super Bowl for people who love movies,” BYU psychology student Hannah Steele said. “They are also a pretty good representative sample of blockbuster and smaller films.”

The lack of female representation

The 2022 Oscar nominations made history when Jane Campion became the first woman nominated twice for best director.

The nomination for “The Power of the Dog” came almost 30 years after her first nomination for best director of the film “The Piano.”

Including Campion, so far just seven women in the Oscars history have been nominated for best director. As of February 2022, only two, Chloe Zhao and Kathryn Bigelow, have won the award.

Even though there has been an increase in women occupying leadership positions in the film industry, according to a 2019 study conducted by the University of Southern California, there is still underrepresentation for females.

“The percentage of female speaking characters and leads/co-leads increased significantly when a woman director was attached,” the study reported.

“Because the Oscars are given by people who are working in Hollywood, they reflect who is working in Hollywood and who has power, which historically have not been women,” BYU media arts assistant professor Kimball Jensen said. “Unless we see more equal representation in the number of studio executives, directors, producers and other key people behind the camera, you’re not going to see female representation at the Oscars increase.”

Thevenin agreed with Jensen’s statement and said even though the industry has evolved over the past few years, it still has a long way to go.

“As more women creators have the chance to make movies and as more women become executive producers and run studios and so on, two things will happen,” Thevenin said. “The makeup of the Academy will continue to become more diverse, and we’ll get to see more stories told onscreen that reflect a wider variety of perspectives and experiences.”

BYU students who were interviewed also agreed on the importance of female representation not only in the film world but in all other fields where women do not have a voice.

“Women make up half of the population, and they matter. Their point of view matters,” pre-graphic design student Lily Altom said. “If the Oscars are not including women, then the Oscars are not as important to me.”

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