In the aftermath of the Oscars, Twitter was flooded with posts about all the winners and their accomplishments. My newsfeed in particular was overwhelmed by posts about Maori director Taika Waititi. But more importantly, my newsfeed posts were filled with praise and gratitude that two people of color walked away with two major awards and what an amazing feat it was for their talents to be acknowledged in such a high-profile way.
The thing I appreciated most about the night was not only the land acknowledgment at the beginning of the program, but Taika’s victory speech. In it, he spoke to “all the Indigenous kids” around the world and assured us that we can “make it” in spaces like this too.
This was so important to me because for so long the representation I had of Indigenous people in media was Iron Eyes Cody (the Crying Indian) and Disney’s version of Pocahontas. Never before was I told that Indigenous people could act, that we could write screenplays or even be Oscar-winning directors. For Taika Waititi to win such a highly regarded award in front of millions of viewers and speak directly to those of us in the farthest corners of society brought tears to my eyes.
That being said, you could imagine my frustration when I found a tweet in my newsfeed from IndieWire with the headline “The Academy Overlooks Greta Gerwig (again!) as Taika Waititi Wins Best Adapted Screenplay.”
Of course, I understand the frustration. Greta Gerwig is a talented director and her work definitely needs to be acknowledged. However, IndieWire, you went about it all wrong. Do not pit Greta Gerwig against Taika Waititi because in turn, you are creating a hostile dynamic where there doesn’t need to be one.
As a person of color, representation in media is really important to me, especially because as an Indigenous person, we’re rarely seen in high-profile spaces like the Oscars. Of course, I understand that representation is also an issue for women in Hollywood, but we need to address these issues WITHOUT tearing down the achievements of other marginalized groups.
For the IndieWire to call out the lack of women represented in top categories like best director and picture is to completely disregard the importance of those wins by people of color. I’m all for the advancement of women in industries primarily dominated by men, however, Hollywood is also not nearly as racially diverse as it should be and every person of color who wins big also needs to be celebrated.