Excluding Dee Rees During Awards Season Is Peak White Feminism
The industry and white feminism do this all the time, they come up with new and asinine ways to validate exclusion in Hollywood and a complete disregard for women of color who are making incredible strides.
By Candice Frederick
I’ve tried to bite my tongue about this. After all, it’s just great to be mentioned, right? Because as women, when one of us wins, we all win, right? RIGHT? Wrong. It’s 2018, and I’m tired of seeing women of color show up for then take a back seat to white women whose accomplishments are just as great as their own, yet they must settle for simply being in the same room as them. Nope, not today Satan. Not anymore.
Let me be more frank. You know how everyone is going on about “Lady Bird” this and “Wonder Woman” that, Greta Gerwig this and Patty Jenkins that? It seems like every Hollywood pundit is hailing the two for leading the charge for women filmmakers in 2017, as if Dee Rees didn’t just deliver one of the most astounding and technically amazing films of the year with “Mudbound” (her second since 2011’s also criminally underrated “Pariah”). Where is she in the conversation? Why is she not “leading the charge” and a frontrunner for best director this season? Why this year out of all years, when women are finally being centered in major industry discussions, does that not include Rees?
This isn’t about taking anything away from Gerwig or Jenkins (because I know that’s exactly where certain minds go when you try to integrate conversation). In fact, “Wonder Woman” is my favorite movie of 2017 and “Lady Bird”, well, is a very pleasant film for those hungry to see a simple story about a young white girl on the cusp of adulthood (because the landscape is sorely in need of those, right?).
This also isn’t about using white women’s success as a barometer for women of color creatives, because that’s neither necessary or productive. Rather, this is about including women of color as we amplify those who’ve made extraordinary achievements in 2017 film. Is that too difficult of an ask, too outrageous to consider as more and more award nominations are unveiled sans her name?
The fact that Rees isn’t even considered as a notable snub is troubling. It doesn’t even seem to be a concern for self-proclaimed feminist pundits who stan for “women” when they really mean “white women.” That’s a problem. And I’ve heard all the excuses, most commonly “Maybe if “Mudbound” wasn’t a Netflix original film and it had a traditional theatrical release, Rees could be taken seriously.”
I suppose all those times white directors have collected awards for their Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon series prove that streaming properties are just meaningless forms of entertainment that are not adequately appreciated. Got it (*eye roll*). I wonder if we would even be having this conversation if “Mudbound” was directed by, say, Gerwig or Jenkins (hypothetically)? I bet folks would be fighting to overturn the system then.
The industry and white feminism do this all the time, they come up with new and asinine ways to validate exclusion in Hollywood and a complete disregard for women of color who are making incredible strides. It’s this protection of the status quo that is particularly enraging. It’s the need for film elitists to center a conversation according to their own biases that makes it frustrating to have a real dialogue about it.
Year after year I hear dismissive remarks claiming that the industry “isn’t ready” for something so basic as, say, a black female director Oscar winner or, even more annoyingly, people who praise the film but don’t nominate it because they “don’t think it could win.” Why in 2018 are we allowing historical racism within the Academy dictate what we elect as the best films and talent of the year? Why are we even comfortable with admitting that out loud, so confidently like it’s perfectly okay?
Related: “MOONLIGHT” DESERVED BETTER
I remember having this conversation last year regarding “Moonlight”. Most people I talked to loved it, but at the same time many of them thought it had absolutely no chance to win the Oscar. Flash forward to Oscar night, when director Barry Jenkins accepted the most coveted award at the ceremony (after retrieving it from the faux winners from “La La Land”) and then everyone wanted to pat themselves on the back after doubting it the whole time. Oh, Hollywood pundits, you’re nothing if not predictable.
All I ask is that you at least include Rees in your conversations, and that she is given adequate consideration among the likes of even her male counterparts such as Martin McDonaugh (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) and Steven Spielberg (“The Post”), whose films don’t even hold a candle to Rees’ “Mudbound”. Let’s be real. She deserves it.
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