Why Did the Oscars Ignore Jennifer Lopez in ‘Hustlers’?

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Why Did the Oscars Ignore Jennifer Lopez in ‘Hustlers’?

The Oscars usually represent the pinnacle of success for an actor when it comes to their work on the silver screen. But when the 2020 Academy Awards rolled around, there was an early outcry from movie fans about one of the best performances of last year being snubbed by Hollywood’s most prestigious award show: Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers. From her unforgettable turn in the beloved biopic Selena to her major performances in Maid in Manhattan and The Wedding Planner, Jennifer Lopez has proved herself to be one of the most talented and versatile actresses to ever grace the silver screen. So, why did the Oscars ignore her electrifying performance in Hustlers?

Oscar History of Overlooking Non-White Winners

The controversy around why Jennifer Lopez was overlooked at the 2020 Oscars has brought renewed interest to a long-standing issue within the Academy Awards: its systemic bias in recognizing non-white talent. Despite the original Academy’s explicit exclusion of black actors and actresses until 1939, the nonprofit organization responsible for the Oscars is still being criticized for its pattern of predominantly awarding white people for the biggest awards of the night. From 1939 to the present, only six non-white actors have been honored with the Oscar for best actor or best actress, even though countless actors of color have delivered Oscar-worthy performances. This racial disparity is especially stark in comparison to other prestigious award ceremonies, such as the Emmys and the Golden Globes, but the Oscars seem to especially struggle in this regard.

The Oscars and Sexism

In addition to the racial bias surrounding the Academy Awards, there is also a clear problem of sexism within the voting process. Among the people who cast ballots for the top awards at the Academy Awards, women are not well-represented. Female directors only make up 8 percent of the voters of the Oscars, while the remaining 92 percent of the voting body is mainly white men. This overwhelming lack of diversity among the voting body means there are still far too few women’s voices being heard when it comes to the biggest awards of the night. Such institutional sexism also helps to explain why there have been only five female recipients of the best director category, and only one woman of color to win the award, in comparison to the 40 male recipients of this honor.

Jennifer Lopez and Hustlers

When it comes to Jennifer Lopez and her performance in Hustlers, it’s evident that she was snubbed for several reasons. First, despite strong reviews and a box office success, Hustlers is considered an atypical Academy Awards choice since it was not the serious drama the Oscars are known for valuing. The fact that the film resonated with female moviegoers also made it an unlikely candidate for a major Oscar nomination since the Academy has a long history of overlooking female-centered films. Additionally, many critics also contend that the Academy has a pattern of overlooking performances by women of color for major awards, which is a factor that was likely a key part of why Lopez and the film’s other stars were ignored at the Academy Awards.

Improving Academy Inclusivity

Many are now calling on the Academy to make substantive changes to its voting system to improve its inclusivity. While the Academy has taken long-overdue action to diversify its voting body in recent years, there is still more that needs to be done in order to ensure that female and minority talent get the recognition they deserve at the highest levels of filmmaking.

The first step the Academy could take to improve inclusivity is to actively solicit nominations for non-white actors and actresses for all major categories, rather than relying solely on the existing voting body to nominate nominees. Additionally, the Academy should increase transparency with its voting process so that the public can hold the organization accountable if there are any signs of institutionalized bias. Finally, the Academy should make a point of recognizing historically marginalized talent when possible, such as by establishing a separate category that recognizes female directors or removing the per-movie cap on nominations in a certain category to better reflect the full range of talent in the industry.

The exclusion of Jennifer Lopez’s performance in Hustlers at the 2020 Oscars was a disappointment for many who had hoped to see her get the recognition she deserved. Unfortunately, this snub symbolizes a much larger problem with the Academy Awards, which has a long history of disproportionately recognizing white and male talent. To correct this imbalance, the Academy should take active steps to include more non-white actors and actresses, as well as more female directors, in its nomination and voting process. While change may take some time, making these overdue changes at the Academy would be a significant step forward to create much-needed diversity in the awarding of the world’s most prestigious award show.

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