When the 2018 Oscar nominations were announced at the end of January, Greta Gerwig made history by becoming the fifth woman to ever be nominated for Best Director. She received the nomination for her 2017 coming–of–age film Ladybird, which is nominated for four other Oscars, including Best Screenplay (also written by Gerwig).
Of the past female Best Director nominees, only one has ever won—Kathryn Bigelow, for 2008’s The Hurt Locker. The other three nominees were Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation (2003), Jane Campion for The Piano (1993), and Lina Wertmüller for Seven Beauties (1975).
Gerwig stands apart from her predecessors in that Lady Bird was her directorial debut. Garnering a Best Director nomination on your first try is an impressive feat, and amidst the #MeToo uproar in Hollywood that’s pushed women to the forefront, as well as the internet’s obsession with Lady Bird star Timothée Chalamet, it’s safe to say that Gerwig is a frontrunner in the Best Director race.
Jordan Peele is also nominated for Best Director for Get Out, making him the fifth African–American director to receive the nomination. None have ever won, even though two of the movies that got their directors nominations—last year’s Moonlight and 2012’s 12 Years a Slave—won Best Picture.
And of course, there’s the case of Ava DuVernay, who must be included in any discussion of female and/or black directors at the Oscars. Her 2014 film Selma was nominated for Best Picture, but she was not nominated for Best Director. Many took this as a cruel and unfair snub, and it caused enough outrage (paired with the fact that no actors of color were nominated that year) to prompt the Academy to promise to try to become more diverse.
Even without receiving a Best Director nomination, DuVernay made history as the first black woman to have her film nominated for Best Picture. These are only a few examples, but they’re indicative of a pretty scary, though unsurprising, tendency in Hollywood.
On March 4, if Greta Gerwig wins, it will be a great day for women in the movie industry; if Jordan Peele wins, it’ll be a great day for African–Americans in the industry. Either way, there will still be a lot of work to do for diversity and progress in Hollywood.