As the 2019 Oscars cap off a film season where competition was stiff and talent were plentiful, one thing is for certain- the success of the film industry over the past year is obviously due to a greater amount of racial, ethnic, gender, and lifestyle diversity than ever before.
A Queen tribute performance kicked off the 91st Academy Awards ceremony. The performance, fronted by Adam Lambert, who like iconic Freddy Mercury, identifies as gay, featured a medley of the group’s hits including “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions.” The film, Bohemian Rhapsody, which is a biopic of lead singer Freddie Mercury’s life, was nominated for best picture. Rami Malek, who played Mercury, also won the Best Actor award and Bohemian Rhapsody also won for best sound editing and mixing. Malek took time to note that he is one of the few actors of Middle Eastern descent and to acknowledge his parents’ immigrant experience.
Regina King took home the Oscar, this time for Best-Supporting Actress in If Beale Street Could Talk, the movie adaptation of the compelling James Baldwin book of the same title. King is the third black actress to win both an Oscar and a Primetime Emmy, joining Halle Berry and Viola Davis.
Green Book, a fact-based story about the relationship between pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) and the man hired to drive an African-American musician during a tour of the South in the early 1960s (played by Vigo Mortensen) won Best Picture. Ali also became the second African American actor to win multiple Oscars with his win for Best-Supporting Actor for his role in the movie, which also won the award for best original screenplay.
Ruth Carter became the first African American to win the award for best costume design for her work on Black Panther, thanking Spike Lee and noting that the honor was “a long time coming.” The film also took home an award for best production.
Yet Adam Levine had to share the spotlight with another star. As is to be expected whenever she performs, Jennifer Hudson gave a riveting performance as she sang the song “I’ll Fight,” from the CNN Films documentary “RBG,” wowing the crowd and audiences at home.
Mexican films, which have typically stayed in the shadow of American cinematography, also had a big night as Roma took home several awards. Director Alfonso Cuarón also won his fourth Oscar for the film.
Proving that feminism is here to say, winning the Oscar for Best Documentary short subject was Period. End of sentence., a movie that aims to end the stigma of menstruation in other parts of the world, where the topic is still largely taboo.
Director Spike Lee, who has been nominated five times, won his first Oscar ever for Best-Adapted screenplay for his film BlacKkKlansman, taking a moment to remember the past and honor Black History Month as well as honor his grandmother.
Olivia Colman won the best actress for her role as Queen Anne in the historical dramedy, The Favourite, a film with a heavy European influence that did very well in the American market.
Yet diversity was more than just skin deep. Taking home the honor of best documentary was National Geographic’s Free Solo, the film that followed Alex Honnold for more than two years as he prepared to be the first person to climb Yosemite National Park’s granite monolith El Capitan sans ropes- a skill known as free soloing, making it the first documentary of its kind to win such a prestigious award.
The notion that this year’s Oscars are the most diverse in the show’s history is about far more than meeting an arbitrary numeric quota. Classic psychoanalytic theorist Jacques Lacan explained how representation in popular culture is a crucial aspect of identity formation for many people, noting that it is critical that people see themselves mirrored in popular culture. Identities can be formed by watching film, television, theater or sports. They’re shaped by playing video games, dancing and listening to music. The characters who appear and the roles they assume indicate whose lives matter in the public sphere, and who is erased.
Hopefully, this year’s Oscars could serve as one piece of inspiration for the millions of diverse Americans watching and show that it is entirely possible to achieve greatness no matter who you are…and that sometimes you have to do it without safety ropes.