The Oscar nominations for 2018 are out! This morning, Academy President John Bailey, as well as Tiffany Haddish and Andy Serkis, revealed the nominees in 24 categories and, to the surprise of basically no one who has been paying attention, Latinx representation at the 90th Academy Awards is severely lacking. Over the weekend, Gina Rodriguez put it best when she called out Hollywood and told Glamour that “Latinos are still super underrepresented in our community, in our industry.” It seems that our underrepresentation isn’t going anywhere. At least not this year.
One Latino did sweep the nominations: Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water led the pack with 13 nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director nods. Will this be the Mexican director’s year? He was previously nominated in 2007 for Pan’s Labyrinth in the Best Foreign Film and Best Original Screenplay categories, and may just sweep this year’s Oscars.
“13 is a great number now,” del Toro said in an interview with Deadline, “and it’s happened to the best movie of mine, that I love. It’s a good club to belong to, you know.”
The film’s nominations for Best Actress Sally Hawkins, Supporting Actor Richard Jenkins, and Best Supporting Actress Octavia Spencer (a woman of color!) as well as a Best Original Screenplay nomination for Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor are great, but when it comes to Latinx visibility in Hollywood, it is basically non-existent on the big screens.
In fact, the numbers are clear: The last Hispanic/Latinx actors to win an Oscar were Lupita Nyong’o in 2014 (Best Supporting Actress) and Penélope Cruz in 2009 (Best Supporting Actress) while the last Hispanic acting nominees were Demián Bichir (Best Actor) and Bérénice Bejo (Best Supporting Actress) in 2012. The only Hispanic person to win a Best Actor Oscar was José Ferrer in 1951. No woman has ever won, though Salma Hayek was nominated in 2002 for Frida and Catalina Sandino Moreno was nominated in 2004 for Maria Full of Grace. It’s also clear that for For U.S. born Latinx filmmakers and talent, it’s rare to see them get recognized by the academy.
The truth of the matter is, however, that Hollywood constantly overlooks Latinos in the movies, whether largely ignoring Salma Hayek’s brilliant turn in Beatriz at Dinner or simply leaving us out of leading roles. It’s no wonder Latinos are not snagging Oscar nominations — we’re just not appearing in the movies!
It’s a sad statistic but it’s the reality. According to The New York Times, we make up only 3.1% of characters in film, despite making up 18% of the U.S. population (or 60 million people). How can we ever hope to see more Latinos win major awards if we don’t even see Latinx or Hispanic actors in the movies?
When it comes to being behind the camera, we have had some great successes lately: Emmanuel Lubezki won three years in a row for Best Cinematography (for Gravity, Birdman, and The Revenant) and Mexican directors won three years in a row as well, with Alfonso Cuarón taking home the Best Director Oscar in 2013 for Gravity and Alejandro González Iñárritu winning Best Director two years in a row, for Birdman and The Revenant, respectively.
This might be Guillermo del Toro’s year but he is the only Latino getting any recognition. The only other gems on the Oscar nominations list this year are two contenders for Best Animated Feature: Pixar’s Coco (however, co-director Adrian Molina is not considered part of this nomination and Ferdinand (directed by Brazilian, Carlos Saldanha), both of which feature the voices of Latinx/Hispanic actors.
Despite the overwhelming success of Coco in particular, which has grossed over $650 million worldwide according to Box Office Mojo, Latinx stories are still severely lacking in Hollywood. It’s difficult to keep hoping to see people like me at the Oscars, when I don’t ever even see people like me in the movies. Hollywood needs to do better.
With the success of television shows such as Jane the Virgin, Orange is the New Black, Narcos, Superstore, and Queen of the South, can the movies be far behind? If the controversy over Cocaine Godmother: The Griselda Blanco Story (where Welsh actress Catherine Zeta-Jones plays the Colombian drug lord) is any indicator, then we will likely continue to see whitewashing and the removal of Latinx visibility from Hollywood.
Let’s hope that’s not the case, though, and that Guillermo del Toro takes home the Oscar this year… and that Hollywood finally starts to play attention to Latinos.