As Oscars Eligibility Criteria Changes, Where Does the Wizarding World Go from Here?
With numerous questions about the fate of the Fantastic Beasts films already, plans for “new representation and inclusion standards for Oscars eligibility” – as announced by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (hereafter referred to as “the Academy”) – have the potential to change the shape of the Wizarding World franchise as we know it.
The new set of standards will be developed and implemented by July 31, 2020, and will affect the eligibility criteria for the 94th Academy Awards, which will be held in February 2022. Also known as the Oscars, the Academy Awards are considered to be among the most prestigious in the film industry.
The Academy will encourage equitable hiring practices and representation on and off screen in order to better reflect the diversity of the film community. To ensure more diverse representation, and in collaboration with the Producers Guild of America (PGA), the Academy will create a task force of industry leaders, appointed by David Rubin and that will include governor and A2020 Committee chair DeVon Franklin, to develop and implement new representation and inclusion standards for Oscars eligibility by July 31, 2020. Eligibility for films in consideration for the 93rd Academy Awards® (2020) will not be impacted.
Crew members were nominated for a total of 12 Oscars for the Harry Potter film series, although they did not win any. To date, the Fantastic Beasts film series has been slightly more successful: Stuart Craig and Anna Pinnock were nominated in the Best Production Design category for their work on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Colleen Atwood won the Oscar for Best Costume Design for her work on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Although Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was not nominated for an Oscar, it is likely that Warner Bros. will aim to keep the remaining films in the series eligible.
While it is too early to say what the new inclusion standards will entail or to what extent they will factor in intersectionality, we know that the third Fantastic Beasts film – on which production is currently suspended – will be affected. One of the largest criticisms of the Oscars in recent years has been its overwhelming Whiteness, as raised by April Reign through her creation of the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite in 2015, and it is likely that the Academy has considered this in its efforts for greater equity.
The casts of the first two Fantastic Beasts films are predominantly White, although a number of characters introduced in Crimes of Grindelwald – including Leta Lestrange (played by Zoë Kravitz), Yusuf Kama (played by William Nadylam), Nagini (played by Claudia Kim), and Eulalie “Lally” Hicks (played by Jessica Williams) – are not. Race certainly isn’t the only factor here, and the representation brought by Nagini, who was introduced to fans as Voldemort’s snake in the Harry Potter series, has been criticized by fans. If Warner Bros. intends to promote the next Fantastic Beasts film as a contender for the Oscars, it is possible that the new standards set by the Academy might require non-White characters to have more prominent roles. (It has been established that Jessica Williams’s Lally Hicks will have a more prominent role in the third film.)
Another concern for the Academy could be gender representation – either on-screen or behind the scenes. To date, no film in the Wizarding World franchise has been directed by a woman, which provides a significant opening behind the camera. Meanwhile, a common measure of female representation in fiction is known as the Bechdel test, which tests to see if two named female characters converse with one another about something other than a man. While Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them passes the Bechdel test, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald does not. (Swedish movie theaters began to use the Bechdel test back in 2013, so there is some precedent for its use on a wider scale.) In addition to the female representation in the Fantastic Beasts films, actor Ezra Miller (Credence Barebone) identifies as “queer.”
Sexuality could also be included in the Academy’s standards. In that case, we might see more of Albus Dumbledore’s relationship with Gellert Grindelwald, which has been subjected to queerbaiting. J.K. Rowling did not establish Dumbledore as gay until after the publication of the Harry Potter books, so this could more clearly solidify the character’s attraction to Grindelwald.
Still, tokenism is a major concern. It remains to be seen if new eligibility standards will lead to substantial changes in the depth or accuracy of the representation that audiences see in films such as the Fantastic Beasts series, but it is a step in the right direction. For all the changes announced by the Academy, you can read the full press release on its website.
What do you think of the Academy’s changes? What do you think the criteria for Oscars eligibility might look like in the future? Let us know in the comments below!