The 2022 Oscars ceremony dominated headlines thanks to its disastrous gaffes, but the night’s true success lies in the triumphs of underrepresented communities. The 94th Academy Awards featured a number of milestones implicating the LGBTQ and disabled communities, as well as people of color. Unfortunately, moments such as a bizarre performance of “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” and of course, Will Smith’s slapping of Chris Rock after the latter insensitively joked about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.
Further controversy resulted from several of hosts Wanda Sykes, Regina Hall, and Amy Schumer’s jokes and the Academy’s decision to hold eight award presentations before the main ceremony. In spite of these blunders, the 2022 Oscars should be remembered for the groundbreaking achievements of women directors, actors Ariana DeBose and Troy Kotsur, in addition to the monumental wins of CODA.
Although the Oscars are widely revered as Hollywood’s biggest night, the prestigious awards show has often faced criticism for a lack of diversity in its nominees and winners. Before 2021, only one woman had ever won the award for Best Director, while only one Black woman has ever been named Best Actress. Prior to 2022, just two disabled actors had won Academy Awards.
The 2021 Oscars, took a step toward rectifying the Academy’s historic exclusivity, as nine out of 20 acting nominations went to people of color, though that number decreased to four this year. The Oscars still aren’t living up to the Academy’s commitment to diversity it set in 2020 with a new set of requirements for nominees, but history was made, nonetheless.
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The night’s first milestone arrived in the form of Ariana DeBose’s Best Supporting Actress win for her role as Anita in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story. The Broadway star’s victory from her first Academy-Award nomination carries historical significance, as Rita Moreno won the same award for the same role 60 years ago.
DeBose’s belonging to multiple marginalized communities heightens the impact of her win, as it provided a heartening and much-needed moment of visibility for those whose stories are too often forgotten. In an industry largely monopolized by straight white men, women of color, especially those belonging to the LGBTQ community, still fall short of adequate representation in casts, crews, and stories as the basis for films. Accordingly, DeBose’s Academy Award constitutes a landmark on Hollywood’s biggest stage.
The 2022 Oscars also represented resounding wins for the deaf community, as Sian Heder’s CODA emerged victorious in all three of its nominated categories. The heartwarming coming-of-age story centering around a child of deaf adults took home the awards for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, while Troy Kotsur became the second deaf actor to win an Oscar and the first to win Best Supporting Actor. A film’s impact should not solely rely on its award haul, but CODA’s achievements at the Oscars illustrate the long-overdue recognition for stories of disabled people and disabled actors’ rightful place in them.
A massive accomplishment for women in film, the wins of Heder’s CODA and Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog for Best Picture and Best Director mark the first occasion on which both awards were earned by two different movies directed by women. This continues the trend that began a year ago when director Chloé Zhao won both awards for Nomadland. Campion represents the third woman to win Best Director and CODA is the third woman-directed film to win Best Picture. The 2022 Oscars will be remembered most notably as a disaster, though it shouldn’t be forgotten that monumental winners like DeBose, Campion, and CODA made major breakthroughs in Oscars history.