Women in Hollywood: What the Awards Season Tells Us

The Oscar nominations have been announced, and the honeymoon period of a post-“Bridesmaids” and “The Help” Hollywood seems to be over. As a Women’s Media Center feature notes, the number of women nominated has decreased (not that it was terribly high last year); moreover, most of the nominations for women reflect the gender roles expressed de facto in the film industry, i.e. that women work in, and are acknowledged for Makeup, Costume Design, and Art Department. Tech-heavy categories such as Sound and F/X are dominated by men, as are the longtime boys’ clubs of Directing and Screenwriting.

The awards season is a contentious time for both film buffs and those in the industry. The former complain that the films they’ve actually seen or had popular appeal are not represented in the nominations; the latter complain that the folks nominated are only so based on obscurity or specificity of role, popularity among the Academy members, or seniority in the industry. The Academy has responded by changing the rules governing the number of Best Picture Nominees, first increasing it from 5 to 10 for the 82nd (2010) Oscars, then requiring that the nominees get at least 5 percent of the first-place votes. Understandably, they are reluctant to change the categories, although they have responded to pressure to create the Best Animated Feature category. The newer specific categories were created in the 60s and, interestingly, reflect the male-heavy tech categories, such as Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Mixing. However, the Academy continues to generalize the categories for which women are more often nominated and that encompass a wide range of traditionally female positions in film production. Last year, the Art Direction category was generalized into Production Design; this year, the Makeup category was expanded to include Hairstyling.

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