• Cyrus Cohen

The Academy Almost Entirely Shuts Out LGBTQ+ Cinema from the "Most Diverse Oscars" So Far

Oscar nominations were announced Monday morning, with many noting the exciting and overdue developments made in celebrating women and actors of color, but LGBTQ+ cinema has once again been sidelined. Riz Ahmed, Chadwick Boseman, Viola Davis, Andra Day, Daniel Kaluuya, Leslie Odom Jr., LaKeith Stanfield, Steven Yeun, and Youn Yuh-jung all made history as part of what some are branding "the most diverse Oscar nominations ever" with their historic acting nominations as well as those of Chloé Zhao and Emerald Fennell, who are the first women to be nominated together in Best Director.

But despite a more diverse voting body and ample highly acclaimed options—including many on the shortlists for Best International Feature Film, Best Documentary Feature, and Best Animated Short Film—LGBTQ+ films were almost entirely snubbed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. While Davis and Day both played LGBTQ+ icons in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and The United States vs. Billie Holiday, respectively, their films both missed out on Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

While this is not entirely surprising as it has become the norm, this year featured the rare occasion in which queer movies were the ones to beat in their respective categories. Two of Us appeared to be a lock with Agnieska Holland's Charlatan as a potential spoiler in Best International Feature Film. Both were excluded. On the Documentary Feature side, Welcome to Chechnya was seen by many as a favorite given its technical achievements and incredibly timely subject matter, but it too didn't make the cut.

Perhaps the most egregious of today's snubs, however, came in the Best Animated Short section, which had not one but two LGBTQ+ films seen as likely nominees miss out on inclusion. While a third, less predicted queer title, Genius Loci by Adrien Mérigeau, did make it in, both Kapaemahu by Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson, & Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu and Out by Steven Clay Hunter were ignored by Oscar voters.

Kapaemahu is boundary-breaking not only in its animation style but its subject matter, which discusses both gender identity and Hawaiian legends with grace and beauty. While animation has historically been seen as quite a straight space, it's even more cis. Trans animated narratives are only recently being given the attention they deserve in the medium and Kapaemahu becoming an Oscar nominee would have been a major milestone in that fight.

In the case of Out, not only is it a queer favorite being excluded, but it's a Pixar short film being snubbed. While their time-tested release strategy of playing short films before animated features has been hampered by the pandemic, it does need to be asked whether the studio put their full weight behind marketing and campaigning the film to both audiences at large and Oscar voters.

Ultimately, today is a celebration for all of the extraordinary nominees getting well-deserved acclaim from their peers. But we also must take this moment to recognize those still on the fringes fighting for a seat at the table. Who isn't fully represented and how can we guarantee that they're seen moving forward? And tomorrow, we must fight to change that for them too.