All of Us Snubbed

Colman Domingo & Jodie Foster made Oscars history, but queer stories got snubbed

It’s one of the year’s biggest days for film buffs: Oscar nominations are here. With them comes plenty of good news for queer representation — but plenty of disappointment, too.

On the bright side of things, Colman Domingo and Jodie Foster made Oscars history. Domingo is nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role for playing Bayard Rustin, an openly gay Black civil rights leader, in Rustin. Foster is up for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance in Nyad as Bonnie Stoll, the best friend (and former lover) of the titular character. Their nominations mark the first time two openly queer actors have been nominated at the same ceremony for playing queer characters.

If either of them will take home the Oscar is another story. A queer actor has never won an Oscar for portraying a queer character — in fact, only one has ever even been nominated prior to this year: Ian McKellen, for his leading role in 1999’s Gods and Monsters.

This year’s nominations could have been even more historic if the Academy had recognized Andrew Scott’s brilliant performance in All of Us Strangers. Scott would have joined the ranks of Foster, Domingo, and McKellen as a queer actor nominated for playing a queer character — but Andrew Haigh’s groundbreaking film didn’t receive a single nomination, despite its success on the festival circuit.

All of Us Strangers isn’t the only queer story to get shafted at the Oscars this year. Pedro Almodóvar’s queer cowboy short Strange Way of Life starring Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal was locked out of the Best Live Action Short Film category, and out director Todd Haynes was snubbed for Best Director for May, December. Meanwhile, The Color Purple received only one nomination: Danielle Brooks for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, who, while absolutely deserving of her nomination, is notably not one of the film’s central lesbian characters, who themselves went unrecognized by the Academy.

Queer roles do get plenty of recognition when the actors behind them are straight, though. Take last year’s winner for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Brendan Fraser playing a gay man in The Whale, or Rami Malek’s 2019 win in the same category for portraying Freddy Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. That trend continued this year: both Bradley Cooper (for Maestro) and Sterling K. Brown (for American Fiction) nabbed noms for playing queer men, despite not being queer themselves.

The imbalance is partially due to the nature of the film industry, where both queer actors and queer roles are still few and far between when it comes to wide-release movies. But the Academy could do its part to right the scales when it gets the chance — and this year gave it ample opportunities.

Still, there’s plenty to celebrate. Nonbinary actor Lily Gladstone is up for Best Actress in a Leading Role for Killers of the Flower Moon, and documentary short The ABCs of Book Banning, which explores censorship of queer children’s books in schools, earned a nomination for Best Documentary Short Film. 

Will any queer nominees take home trophies on awards night? We’ll find out when the Oscars air on Sunday, March 10 on ABC.

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