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With ‘The Woman King’s’ omission, the Oscars further the stigma around which Black stories it chooses to reward

2022 was a year that the Black experience flourished on the big screen. So, why won’t the Oscars acknowledge it?

Sony Pictures

With the 2023 Oscar nominations, there were films I had no doubt would be a lock for many different categories – Everything Everywhere All At Once, The Banshees of Insherin, and The Fablemans, to name a few. In my opinion, deservingly so. Given how great a year 2022 has been overall for cinema, it's been tremendous in Black storytelling. From sci-fi, horror, action, and dramas, Black storytellers continued to spread their wings to diversify the Black experience on camera. Even so, I still had some trepidation that the Academy would acknowledge this moment.

Much to my dismay, films like director Gina Prince-Bythewood’s The Woman King wasn’t even nominated at all. Nothing in the best picture or best director categories. Not even in the technical categories. I, like many people, go back to the last Black film that won an Oscar – 2013’s 12 Years a Slave, where Steve McQueen was the first Black director to win the award. There is no doubt that these stories need to be told – especially given how parts of the country are actively trying to erase speaking about those very moments in American history. However, a statement that has been echoed for years is that it shouldn’t be the only story we tell of the Black experience.

So, what do we say when an institution such as the Academy ignores the excellent examples of how multi-faceted Black characters can be? Films such as The Woman King and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever placed Black women at the forefront of the story and gave a platform for their characters to show the audience an entire character arch. We got to see them be powerful, vulnerable, embrace friendship, move through grief, and not have it rooted in some patriarchal construct. If anything, they were teaching us how to change it for things to be equal – as the world that looks upon their stories has yet to do.

Jordan Peele’s Nope centers two Black leads in a clever metaphor about spectacle and how walking that tightrope of seeking notoriety for the wrong reasons can lead you to your doom (perhaps a little on the nose for Hollywood). Alice Diop’s Saint Omer is a brilliant and thrilling courtroom drama. Even with Till, a horrific story we all know has been given new life and perspective with Danielle Deadwyler’s fantastic portrayal of Mamie Till.

Even with all these different stories I’ve mentioned, there won’t be a celebration for them come March 12. It’s a shame that as these stories grow to encompass the varied experiences of their subjects, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences seems to commit itself to be tunnel-visioned. The truth is, Black creators shouldn’t have to subject their protagonists to suffering to gain a piece of gold hardware. This was a real opportunity for them to put that possibility on the forefront, but like years past – they are committed to proving us right instead of wrong.