Hollywood: A Season of Change


Photograph by Matt Kennedy-Marvel Studios

Courtesy Marvel Studio and Disney. Black Panther nominated for Best Picture

Since the late nineteenth century, movies have served as a source of entertainment for the masses. Lighthearted films about love stories or made-up worlds have always allowed the public to take their mind off of their mundane daily routines and, while they seem absolutely harmless, they have much influence on the way our society thinks today.

Children grow up watching movies about princesses and their knights in shining armor like “Sleeping Beauty” or “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, whose messages teach girls that they should aspire to be the “damsel in distress” so that a boy will one day “save” them. This is actually just encouraging boys to aspire to assert their dominance over women. When many of these boys and girls grow up, it is this patriarchal behavior that will remain the “norm.”

Families watch movies about other families and, as a result are influenced about what “normal” should look like. Most of the time, this ideal family consists of an upper middle class or upper class white, suburban family with a mom and a dad and two or more loving children.

Recently, perhaps more than ever, though, many movie makers and their viewers are realizing that these movie topics are shaping society in the wrong way.  Movies are shifting toward topics that empower women and capture stories of those who had typically been marginalized, turning minority voices into leading characters on the silver screen. 

This year, in particular, the screen-faces of Hollywood have changed dramatically, perhaps reflecting our changing world. Young, old, black, white, ferocious and timid, foreign and domestic. Tales of heroics, the mundane, frailty and crisis, opulent arrogance, aristocracy and tomfoolery, racism and empathy are all being viewed on our big screens.  Many of the movies featured in the 76th Golden Globe Awards showed this trend. This weekend’s 91st Academy Awards are clearly reflective of this change.

Photograph by Carlos Somonte, Courtesy Netflix via AP
Filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron and Yalitza Aparicio on the set of “Roma”

Throughout this award-season, “Roma”, a Mexican film directed by Alfonso Cuarón, has taken home big awards, including the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Director. It tells the story of a year in the life of a middle-class family’s Native Mexican maid in Roma, a neighborhood of Mexico City, in the early 1970s. It is up for both Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film, among other nominations, and has earned over $600 million at the box office. 

“Crazy Rich Asians” was up for a number of awards this season, but snubbed by the Oscars. It tells the story of the Young’s, a wealthy Chinese family living in the Philippines and the ideological struggles they face when Nicholas Young, the heir to the family’s fortune expresses his desire to marry a first-generation Chinese-American girl. This film is different from other romantic comedies, which usually center on the lives of white people living in a city in the United States or in Europe.

This push towards telling more diverse stories, with an emphasis on more realistic, often nuanced portrayals of characters we might not have seen in previous years can be seen in this year’s “Green Book” and “BlacKkKlansman.” Even “Black Panther,” while not so “nuanced,” is the first superhero movie ever nominated for Best Picture, and also boasts an all-black cast.  This is the face of this movement in Hollywood which truly doesn’t only represent Hollywood, but perhaps America as well.

Regardless of the results of Sunday night’s Oscars, the fact that movies telling the stories of these traditionally marginalized characters are even in contention at all (especially not too long after #oscarssowhite) is symbolic of the change that we will see happening across our nation, from the silver screen to the everyday.

The Academy Awards — or Oscars  — signify the end of the Hollywood awards season. The 91st Academy will air this Sunday night February 24th on ABC at 8pm. We’ll stay tuned to see if this trend continues.