2023 Oscars Diversity: First Asian Best Actress for Marginal Progress
With historic awards like Best Actress, Asian filmmakers have come a long way at the 2023 Oscars, but there’s still a lot to do to make the Oscars more inclusive.
Winning the Best Picture Oscar for a film about the conflict between a Chinese-American family, or more specifically, an immigrant mother and her queer daughter, is arguably a sign of the movement that has taken place in the movement to win the Academy Awards. to recognize more art that comes from people from marginalized backgrounds.
On Sunday night, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” made history at the Academy Awards on several fronts, most notably by making lead Michelle Yeoh the first Asian woman to ever win the best actress award. Her win ended a 21-year white streak since Halle Berry, an African-American actress, became the first woman of color to win the award in 2002. Similarly, his co-star Ke Huy Quan became the second Asian man to win the Best Supporting Actor award. nearly 40 years after “The Killing Fields” star Haing S. Ngor became the first.
It’s important to point out the huge time differences between the awards, as it helps illustrate why the Best Picture awards for “Everything Everywhere All at Once” co-director Dan Kwan and producer Jonathan Wang are notable back-to-back. They shared the Oscar with their creative partner Daniel Scheinert (who also won Best Director and Best Original Screenplay Oscars with Kwan), making them the third Asian producers ever to win the Oscar. The first winners were Bong Joon-ho and Kwak Sin-ae for “Parasite” three years ago. The second was Chloé Zhao in 2021.
At the Oscars, those who strive for diversity are not fans of the first place in the major categories. After 95 years of the award ceremony, it is nothing new for a group of people representing nearly 12 percent of the population of Los Angeles to win on Hollywood’s biggest night. The real outcome that the Academy’s critics want is a world where people from marginalized backgrounds are fairly considered in every category, and where those nominees don’t have to feel the odds against them are strong. These wins in quick succession give some hope that minority producers will be firmly in the running for the night’s biggest prize, many more Oscars, rather than being shut out for decades.
Adding to the banner night of Asian talent, “Elephant Whispers” won Best Documentary Short, making director Kartiki Gonsalves and producer Guneet Monga the first Indian filmmakers ever to win the competitive Oscar. Their compatriots MM Keeravani and Chandrabose were also the second Indian winners in the Best Original Song category for ‘Naatu Naatu’ from Tollywood phenomenon ‘RRR’.
Elsewhere, it was a surprise that Ruth E. Carter, the first black woman to win an Academy Award for Best Costume Design, became the first black woman to win two Academy Awards (both for her work in the “Black Panther” films). we’re thinking of stars like Whoopi Goldberg and Viola Davis who made headlines at the Oscars.
Overall, there is still much room for the Oscars to grow into a more inclusive awards show. For example, a Latina has yet to win Best Actress. But the final win of note, showing that talent from marginalized backgrounds still has a place to make Oscar history, not their identity, is Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar win for his 2022 stop-motion animated musical, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, ” and became the first to win the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Animated Feature.
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