In an impassioned Oscars introduction to a video featuring prominent Hollywood actors, writers, and directors, Ashley Judd, Annabella Sciorra, and Salma Hayek gave a nod to the Time’s Up movement and commended filmmakers who have defied the odds to give underrepresented communities films that they can see themselves in—something that’s long been available to white America.
“We salute those unstoppable spirits who kicked ass and broke through bias perceptions against their gender, race, and ethnicity to tell their stories,” said Hayek.
It’s been three years since April Reign ignited a movement after she tweeted #OscarsSoWhite in 2015 in light of the fact that not a single non-white person was nominated for any of the four acting categories. Since then, the Academy has woken up a bit.
Though overall representation in Hollywood has been fairly stagnant for the past decade, and the Academy still has a white, male problem—this past year saw many huge moments for representation and diversity on screen. The compilation featured women and filmmakers of color including Lee Daniels, Ava Duvernay, Yance Ford, Dee Rees, Kumail Nanjiani, and more discussing the importance of diversity and representation.
“Some of my favorite movies are movies by straight white dudes about straight white dudes,” said Nanjiani. “Now straight white dudes can watch movies starring me and you relate to that. It’s not that hard!”
“[As a filmmaker,] you can deconstruct the very way that people see themselves and the way that they are seen,” said Ava DuVernay.
We are seeing the power of representation as Black Panther continues to sell out at theaters across the country and inspire people across generations—some of which have waited a lifetime to see Black representation in a movie of this scale that didn’t center slavery or segregation. In a 2012 study on representation and children’s self-esteem, of almost 400 black and white boys and girls, researchers found that the only demographic that didn’t experience lower self-esteem after watching TV was white boys. If the predictions of the actors, writers, and directors featured in this Oscar video are correct, white boys won’t be the only ones whose sense of self is elevated rather than hurt by watching movies.