Danielle Deadwyler: Racism and misogyny played role in Oscar nominations

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Danielle Deadwyler has said racism and misogyny played a role in this year’s Academy Award nominations after she and Viola Davis were overlooked in the best actress category.

Going into Oscar nominations last month, Deadwyler was widely seen as a likely nominee for her performance as Mamie Till-Mobley in Till.

But the best actress field, perhaps the most competitive category this year, did not turn out as expected, with both Deadwyler and Davis missing out.

Davis, a four-time Oscar nominee and one-time winner for her performance in Fences, had been celebrated for the historical epic, The Woman King.

APTOPIX 65th Annual Grammy Awards
Viola Davis was not nominated for an Oscar this year (Chris Pizzello/AP)

That two prominent black actresses were among the most striking snubs has been seen by some as a reflection of racial bias in the film industry.

The day after the Oscar nominations, Till director Chinonye Chukwu posted on Instagram: “We live in a world and work in industries that are so aggressively committed to upholding whiteness and perpetuating an unabashed misogyny towards black women.”

Asked for her reaction to that comment on an episode of the Kermode & Mayo’s Take podcast posted on Friday, Deadwyler strongly agreed with Chukwu.

“We’re talking about people who perhaps chose not to see the film — we’re talking about misogynoir — like it comes in all kinds of ways, whether it’s direct or indirect,” said Deadwyler. “It impacts who we are.”

Misogynoir, a term coined by the black feminist author and activist Moya Bailey, refers to misogyny and prejudice directed at black women.

“I think the question is more on people who are living in whiteness, white people’s assessment of the spaces they are privileged by,” added Deadwyler. “We’ve seen it exist in a governmental capacity — it can exist on a societal capacity, be it global or national.”

That Deadwyler and Davis were edged out of an Oscar nomination is part of what fuelled the initial backlash to the star-studded grassroots campaign for actress Andrea Riseborough.

2023 Critics Choice Awards – Arrivals
Danielle Deadwyler had been nominated by the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Baftas in the run-up to Oscar nominations (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

After the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced an inquiry into the Riseborough campaign, it found no reason to rescind her nomination or take any other action — though Bill Kramer, academy president, said some social media and outreach campaigning tactics “caused concern”.

But conversation has continued on how money, race, status and connections can influence awards campaigns. The Woman King director Gina Prince-Bythewood said earlier this week that she questioned how people in the film industry are using their social capital.

“People like to say, ‘Well, Viola and Danielle had studios behind them.’ But we just very clearly saw that social capital is more valuable than that,” Prince-Bythewood told The Hollywood Reporter.

“That type of power is exercised in more casual ways in social circles, where folks are your friends or your acquaintances. There may be diversity on your sets but not in your lives. And black women in this industry, we don’t have that power.”

Deadwyler said on the podcast it was everyone’s responsibility to ensure an equitable playing field.

“Nobody is absolved of not participating in racism and not knowing that there is a possibility of its lingering effect on the spaces and the institution,” she said.

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