The Redemption of the 2017 Award Season

By Sara Paciaroni

Even the less keen on Hollywood and all related ceremonies will remember the wave of criticism that the award season sparked last year, with a lack of diversity in the top categories, the resulting flood of #OscarsSoWhite hashtags on social media, and several actors boycotting the awards.

The 2017award season  has been full of surprises, with awkward and hilarious moments alike – from Ryan Reynolds and Andrew Garfield smooching in the background as Ryan Gosling was collecting his Golden Globe for LaLaLand, to Adele literally snapping her Grammy in half to share with Beyoncé, to the infamous misreading of the Oscar for Best Picture

This award season is getting political as well, however, and for good reasons.

While both the music and the movie scenes have seen a greater diversity, with a string of empowering women delivering speeches and nominees from all backgrounds, white winners did not waste time in standing up for their black colleagues.

First among many, Adele, who, reports the Guardian, almost apologised for winning Album of the Year for 25, praising Beyoncé instead, “I can’t possibly accept this award,” she said, “the artist of my life is Beyoncé, the Lemonade album was just so monumental and we all got to see another side to you and we appreciate that, you are our light and the way you make me and my friends feel, the way you make my black friends feel is empowering and you make them stand up for themselves” and then proceeded to break her trophy in half to share it with her idol.

Adele’s acceptance speech followed Meryl Streep’s powerful message at the Golden Globes last January 8th. Streep was honoured with the Cecil B DeMille award for her contribution to the world of entertainment and her acceptance speech was an open denunciation of the incident in which Donald Trump appeared to mock a disabled reporter.

“It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life,” she said, after referring to the remarkable diversity of the audience. “Hollywood is just a bunch of people from other places,” continues Streep, as reported by the Mirror, “I was born and raised and created in the public schools of New Jersey. Viola [Davis] was born in a sharecropper’s cabin in South Carolina, and grew up in Central Falls, Long Island. Amy Adams was born in Italy. Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem, the beautiful Ruth Negga was born in Ethiopia and Dev Patel was born in Kenya, raised in London, he is here for playing an Indian raised in Tasmania.”

Emma Stone was among the winners to make reference to current affairs at the BAFTAs. Although she did not mention President Donald Trump, hers was a message of cohesiveness in “a time that’s so divisive, I think it’s so special we were able to come together tonight thanks to Bafta, to celebrate the positive gift of creativity and how it can transcend borders and how it can help people to feel a little less alone,” reports the BBC.

This year we are witnessing a noticeable change in the nominees for all awards. Not only the actors and performers nominated in the most important categories come from a varied range of backgrounds, the winners include men and women alike and from different cultures and environments.

Moonlight, on the life of Chiron, a black gay boy growing up in one of the rough neighbourhoods of Miami, triumphed at the Golden Globes, winning Best Picture, and was surprised with the same award at the Oscars, where Mahershala Ali also won Best Supporting Actor.

Dev Patel walked off stage with a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actor for Lion, a film that, according to Patel, is about “a love that transcends borders, race, colour, anything.”

In the female categories, Ruth Negga was nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Actress, while Viola Davis won in Best Supporting Actress and an Oscar for Fences, starring in the role of the wife of a black garbage collector in 1950s Pittsburgh. Hidden Figures also stands out among the films nominated for Best Pictures at the Academy Awards, centred around the story of a group of black women mathematicians whose role in the NASA’s operations was always underestimated.

While diversity in Hollywood and in the show business in general is remarkably improving, it is necessary that issues around the representation of all genders and ethnicities are being raised, not only to ensure that everyone is getting recognition for their work in the most unbiased way possible, but also that all people are granted acces to the film and music industry independently from their background.