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  • Writer's picturezandaleeindigo

The "Objectivity" of Subjective Art

Updated: Mar 31, 2020

It's no secret that the Oscars are a notoriously white and male dominated space. We all know that. So when the Oscar nominees for best director were announced a few weeks ago and Issa Rae remarked "Congratulations to those men." It felt inevitable and unsurprising. Nothing against my girl Issa though, I absolutely died hearing her say that during the livestream.


So yes, every year we expect the Oscar noms (or any film award nominations) to be primarily white and male, and every year they are, and yet every year we're so upset with the results. This year much of the outrage comes from how stagnant and predictable the Oscars continue to be. The best director category is stacked full of men when Greta Gerwig, Lulu Wang, Olivia Wilde, and so many more women directed and skillfully told amazingly touching and extremely real stories. The best actor and actress awards have only white faces, giving no attention to the great performances given by POC this year including Lupita Nyong'o's performance in US, Jonathan Major's performance in The Last Black Man in San Francisco, the entire cast of Parasite, and so many more.

In response to these feelings of overlooked talent, many fans of the films and directors that actually received recognition believed their nominations were well deserved, and in turn were hell bent on convincing everybody that disagreed with them of that as well. This is especially common with fans of Todd Phillips' movie, Joker, which is probably one of the most polarizing films put out this year. People seem to either love it or hate it and both groups believe they're right. Which is where I start getting frustrated. Neither group is "wrong" and neither group is "right". They both have their own opinions on the film and they both are valid, even if I don't agree with one or the other.

Many of the arguments I've seen surrounding the nominations have gone like this:

One person says they don't think the Joker should be up for best picture, they didn't like the movie, and they feel the nom should've gone to another film, maybe by a POC or a woman.

Someone who loves Joker tells this person they're wrong. Tells them Joker is a masterpiece that critiques society and that if the person didn't understand the film that's on them. Usually they follow this up with, "Maybe if minorities made better films they would've gotten nominated, they just didn't make anything good this year."

This interaction already infuriates me.

First because so often the argument begins with someone simply stating their opinion. There was a much more harsh interaction extremely similar to this where a film lover, who happened to dislike Joker, made a tweet about the amount of nominations the Joker got and claiming "It deserved none of them." The girl who tweeted it was harassed for DAYS by angry Joker fans, and called all kinds of transphobic slurs for... stating how she felt about a movie? It actually boggles my mind.

I also hate the mindset so many Joker stans have that if someone disliked the movie, they just didn't understand it. That's the dumbest reason to defend your "deep" movie. When I saw US for the first time (another movie that got some mixed reception) I didn't understand much of what I watched, but I personally loved it. So to me, saying that because someone didn't like a movie because they "didn't understand it" is so lazy.

The part that really bugs me, and the reason I'm writing this mess of a blog post, is that last line which I think I've seen numerous times. "Obviously minorities didn't make a single good movie or have a single good performance this year otherwise they'd be nominated for something." It pains me that people genuinely can't see the ridiculousness of that statement. How could anyone say there's not a single ounce of talent exhibited by minorities 2019 when we got so many movies by them that impacted so many people? What's especially blood boiling and funny is when you list all of the amazing things released over the last year to these Joker diehards they usually remark: "I haven't seen any of those/I haven't heard of any of those but they must not be good." At that point I'd stop even trying to make good points because you know you're arguing with someone who doesn't want to listen, but just wants to be right.

And this is where I lay out my takeaway from all of this. The lesson film twitter taught me this week, and teaches me constantly. Art is subjective, films are subjective. No matter how problematic or boring or uninspired you believe a film to be, there's never a way to definitively say it's "objectively bad" (unless you look at it on some technical level I suppose but that's above my pay grade). So when discussing the validity of Oscar candidates we don't look for the Academy to give out awards based on merit or some ranking scale. But I and many other people do believe it's important for them to look at movies, pieces of subjective art, and judge them as objectively as possible, as well as for the Oscars to truly showcase the most profoundly impactful films from all walks of life. People are right when they say diversity shouldn't be forced onto the Academy, but especially after as good a year for films 2019 was, a wider range of movies should be recognized by big awards.

That being said, Parasite for best picture:


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1 Comment

Feb 11, 2020

OMG, excellent work! Already shared. Let me leave this with you; people find value where they already value it. If they have to "decide" that you are of value, then the battle is already lost.... That's human and that's fact. That being said, you have done the right thing by pointing out what the "rationale" leaves out. Thanks for sharing some awesome work! :)

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