“Racial diversity was definitely the biggest story of the 2016 Academy Awards. #OscarsSoWhite started trending again because no black actors or actresses were nominated for awards, and host Chris Rock never let the audience forget it.
But as badly as 2016 failed on racial diversity — and as very, very far as Hollywood still has to go on gender diversity — 2016 was a surprisingly good year for women at the Oscars.
Spotlight became the first film with two woman producers to win Best Picture. Films with even one woman producer don’t win all that often; it’s happened just eight other times since 1974, when Julia Phillips became the first woman producer to win a Best Picture award, for The Sting. And while this is a lower bar than it should be, Spotlight was also noteworthy for its accurate portrayal of the craft of journalism — including a woman journalist who doesn’t sleep with her sources to get information.
Women won or shared a win in the categories of Documentary Short, Live Action Short, Production Design, Makeup, Costume Design, and Film Editing. Not all of these categories are traditionally male-dominated (namely Costume Design), but men still win them more often than not. Seeing women win in all of these categories in one night was impressive.
But the biggest winner of the night may have been women’s stories.
At least two women will always win an Oscar every year — one for best lead actress and one for best supporting actress. But too often, even the best lead actress really plays a supporting role in a story about a man. And when she is the true protagonist, the movie she stars in often doesn’t get nominated for Best Picture. (The last time that happened was probably Natalie Portman’s 2010 win for Black Swan.)
But this year Brie Larson won Best Actress for Room, a movie about a mother and son trying to survive as kidnapping victims that was also nominated for Best Picture.
And Room wasn’t the only 2016 Best Picture nominee that featured a woman’s story as the main driver of the plot; we also had Mad Max: Fury Road and Brooklyn. In 2015, none of the Best Picture nominees had a woman protagonist…”