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Danielle Deadwyler cites racism, misogynoir in Oscar snub

The best actress field, perhaps the most competitive category this year, didn’t shake out as expected

A bartender stands behind a counter with prepared drinks placed on it during a preview of the food, beverages and decor of this year's Governors Ball, the Academy's official post-Oscars celebration following the 94th Oscars ceremony in Los Angeles, California, U.S. March 24, 2022.
A bartender stands behind a counter with prepared drinks placed on it during a preview of the food, beverages and decor of this year's Governors Ball, the Academy's official post-Oscars celebration following the 94th Oscars ceremony in Los Angeles, California, U.S. March 24, 2022.MARIO ANZUONI (REUTERS)

Danielle Deadwyler says racism and misogynoir played a role in this year’s Academy Awards nominations, where 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 lauded performance as Mamie Till-Mobley in “Till.” But the best actress field, perhaps the most competitive category this year, didn’t shake out as expected: Both Deadwyler and Davis were left 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.” Deadwyler had been nominated by the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the BAFTAs in the run-up to Oscar nominations, and won best lead performance at the Gotham Awards.

That two prominent Black actors 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 fueled the initial backlash to the star-studded grassroots campaign for actress Andrea Riseborough. After a string of celebrity-hosted screenings (a regular feature of Hollywood’s awards season), Riseborough unexpectedly landed a nomination for her performance in the indie drama “To Leslie,” alongside Michelle Yeoh (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”), Cate Blanchett (“Tár”), Ana de Armas (“Blonde”) and Michelle Williams (“The Fabelmans”).

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, whom The Associated Press named one of the breakthrough performers of last year, 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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