The 2020 Oscars brought many highlights and broke new grounds in Oscar history.
From Parasite breaking new grounds as the first foreign film to win Best Picture. Taika Waititi being the first person of Maori descent to win an Oscar, and the first-ever indigenous person to be nominated in the adapted screenplay category. Joaquin Phoenix’s emotional speech of his brother as he won Best Actor. Janelle Monáe performance, praising Black History Month while decked head to toe out in flowers. The combination of three of the most iconic female role models taking the stage, Ellen Ripley, Wonder Woman, and Captain Marvel. The list really goes on.
What might have escaped your notice, is the controversy over Natalie Portman’s Protest Cape.
Natalie Portman has always made her social and political causes known. She is an advocate of animal rights and known vegan, as well as supporting anti-poverty activities, and launching her own vegan shoe brand. The actress has also shown her support for the feminist movement, most notably during the 2018 Women’s March in Los Angeles. She spoke about the “sexual terrorism” she experienced at 13 years old after the release of her first movie, Léon: The Professional. She spoke:
During the 2018 Women’s March in Los Angeles, she spoke about the “sexual terrorism” she experienced that began when she was 13 years old after the release of She told the crowd; “I understood very quickly, even as a thirteen-year-old if I were to express myself sexually, I would feel unsafe. And that men would feel entitled to discuss and objectify my body to my great discomfort.”
Portman’s powerful words have reached the Oscars as well. In 2018 when she presented the Oscar for Best Director, she went on record to say “Here Are the All-Male Nominees”. It’s sad to see that Portman was right about the same problem for a second time.
In Oscars 2020, Portman’s words once again caught attention, only they were written instead of spoken.
The actress arrived at the awards in a black and gold Dior cape, with the names of the snubbed female filmmakers who were not nominated for Best Actor, embroidered down the sides.
The list included:
Lorene Scafaria – “Hustlers”
Lulu Wang – “The Farewell”
Greta Gerwig – “Little Women”
Mati Diop – “Atlantics”
Marielle Heller – “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”
Melina Matsoukas – “Queen & Slim”
Alma Har’el – “Honey Boy”
Céline Sciamma – “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”
When questioned about her cape, Portman replied: “I wanted to recognize the women who were not recognized for their incredible work this year in my subtle way.”
It seems like once again, Best Director went to All-Male nominees, with this year’s five contenders for best director were: Martin Scorsese for “The Irishman”, Todd Phillips for “Joker”. Sam Mendes for “1917”, Quentin Tarantino for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and winner being Bong Joon-ho for “Parasite”.
Across the internet, a lot of praise and negativity went towards Portman for her Protest Cape, with some fans calling her an icon for speaking out, while others expressed her to be a hypocrite. One strong opinion came from activist Rose McGowan, who wrote a lengthy post “out of disgust” for the actresses’ fashion stunt.
McGowan dismissed Portman’s gesture as a “protest that gets rave reviews from the mainstream media” and said she had only worked with two female directors during her “very long career – one of them was you”. McGown stated in her Facebook post “I find Portman’s type of activism deeply offensive to those of us who actually do the work. […]I just want her and other actresses to walk the walk”
Portman finally made her response to McGowan, and it appears Portman actually agrees and takes responsibility for her words. Portman conceded that it was true, she had only made “a few” films with women, but she has had experience of helping female filmmakers get hired, only for them to be “forced out” because “of the conditions, they faced at work”.
She added: “After they are made, female-directed films face difficulty getting into festivals, getting distribution and getting accolades because of the gatekeepers at every level.”
She finished her statement by saying: “I have tried, and I will keep trying. While I have not yet been successful, I am hopeful that we are stepping into a new day.”
In 92 years of the Academy Awards, only one woman has ever won the award for best director – That was Kathryn Bigelow, for The Hurt Locker back in 2010. This year, there were no women in the running. Let’s hope that Portman and McGowan’s words and actions, as well as other influential women, can stop this from becoming a recurring theme in the future Oscars.