It was just four years ago that the Oscars faced widespread criticism for its lack of diversity, particularly as almost all nominees were white.
But in proof that things can change — and change in just a few short years — yesterday’s Oscars have been largely celebrated as a win for diversity, albeit with one hiccup towards the end.
There was the new record for women set, with 15 Oscars taken home by women. The previous record was 12.
There was the fact three of the four top acting awards were won by non-white actors including Rami Malek, Mahershala Ali and Regina King.
There were the Oscars that went to costume designer Ruth Carter and production designer Hannah Beachler, who became just the second and third African American women to win non-acting awards.
There was Spike Lee, receiving his first competitive Oscar for BlacKkKlansman.
There was the film Roma, becoming the first Mexican winner in the Best Foreign Language Film category.
And there was the fact that 29 of the 52 presenters were non-white.
And of course there were some excellent speeches, including Rami Malek sharing his story on being the son of an immigrant, after picking up the award for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody.
“We made a film about a gay man, an immigrant who lived his life unapologetically himself,” Malek said. “We’re longing for stories like this. I am the son of immigrants from Egypt. I’m a first-generation American, and part of my story is being written right now.’
The hiccup? Green Book taking out the best picture award, a film about race relations that some criticise as being more suitable to the 1960s than 2019 (I haven’t seen it). The award saw Spike Lee exit the venue, and later make the comment that “I was courtside in the Garden. The ref made a bad call.”
Progress at the Oscars on diversity reflected similar progress made at the 2019 Grammy Awards, in which women and people of colour dominated the top categories — a massive change from 2018.
Progress is made. But will in necessarily be sustained into the future? We’ll have to wait and see.