The Oscars are no fans of superhero movies and this has been obvious for years. Every year, pundits wonder why the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences does not recognize the accomplishments of the genre. After all, superhero movies have dominated the box office for a couple of decades now and are not going away anytime soon. So why do the Oscars hate them?
The simple answer is that the Academy sees superhero movies as “super popcorn” and not as real cinema. This is based on the Academy’s own bias of considering some genres as better cinema than others. This idea goes all the way back to Hollywood’s “Golden Age” of the 1930s and 1940s. Academy voters tend to look down on movies that are seen as too commercial or popular for their tastes. This attitude has been particularly damaging to superhero movies, as the genre is undoubtedly the most popular in Hollywood right now.
It should also be noted that the Academy’s views on the superhero genre are heavily skewed towards the pre-Christopher Nolan era of the genre. This means that Academy voters did not consider the current crop of superhero blockbusters to be “real cinema”. Many of these movies have been critically acclaimed, but Academy voters ultimately dismissed them as “super popcorn”.
In addition, the Academy is also uncomfortable with the massive budgets and resources that are poured into superhero movies. This view is reinforced by various reports about the huge salaries earned by the stars of superhero movies. The Academy is viewed as an exclusive club, and the presence of “superstars” on the payroll of superhero movies is seen as a threat to the club’s exclusivity.
The Academy’s bias against superhero movies does not mean that the genre is ignored by the Oscars. There has been a recent trend of nominating popular superhero movies for various technical awards such as Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Editing. However, these recognitions are largely symbolic and do not represent a real shift in the Academy’s opinion of superhero movies.
In addition, the Academy has also taken small steps towards recognizing the ingenuity of superhero movies. For instance, the Academy recently created a new category for Best Popular Film. This was seen by many as a long-overdue acknowledgement of superhero movies. Unfortunately, the category was met with mixed reactions and eventually scrapped due to lack of interest.
Ultimately, the Academy’s bias against superhero movies is rooted in a long-held notion that “lesser” genres are unworthy of top cinematic honors. This attitude is damaging both to the Academy and to the genre itself, as it is preventing the genre from being recognized for its artistic merits. Perhaps it is time for the Academy to reconsider its views on the superhero genre and recognize the genre for what it is: a legitimate form of cinematic art.
Technical awards are the Oscars’ way of recognizing the technical brilliance of superhero movies. This recognition is usually in the form of recognitions for the various technical aspects of the movie. For example, the Oscars have awarded technical awards for Best Cinematography, Visual Effects, and Sound Editing to movies such as The Dark Knight, The Avengers, Spider-Man 2, and Iron Man. All of these movies are known for their technical achievements, and it is good to see Academy recognize them with awards.
However, it should also be noted that these technical recognitions are not a true recognition of the genre. While they acknowledge the technical prowess of the genre, they do nothing to recognize the artistic merits of the genre. Superhero movies are often dismissed as “super popcorn”, and these technical recognitions do little to change that. It is time for the Academy to start recognizing the artistic merits of superhero movies and not just the technical aspects.
Commercially Successful Movies
The Oscars also tend to overlook commercially successful superhero movies. The Oscars are a prestigious award ceremony, and the Academy is naturally hesitant to recognize movies that are too popular for its tastes. This is one of the reasons why movies such as The Avengers and Black Panther were never nominated for Best Picture. The Academy is of the opinion that the popularity of these movies is due to their huge budgets and marketing campaigns, and not due to their artistic merits.
It is also worth noting that the Oscars tend to give a “legitimacy boost” to movies that are not commercial successes. This boost can be seen in the Best Picture nominations of movies such as Spotlight, which was a critical success but not a commercial one. This bias towards less commercially successful movies has led to the Academy ignoring the artistic merits of the biggest blockbuster superhero movies.
The irony is that the Academy is often rewarded for recognizing blockbuster movies with Best Picture or other top awards. Films such as The Lord of the Rings and Gladiator saw massive box office success, and the Academy was rewarded for recognizing their artistic merits. However, the Academy is not willing to do the same for superhero movies and continues to overlook them for the top awards.
The Academy’s bias against superhero movies is also reflected in its reluctance to recognize their sociopolitical impact. Superhero movies are often seen as escapist entertainment, and the Academy tends to overlook their potential to address important social issues. Examples of this include Black Panther and Wonder Woman, which explored themes of cultural pride and female empowerment respectively.
These movies had a huge impact on the cultural landscape and their importance should not be overlooked. The Academy has made some progress in recognizing these themes, such as the nomination of Black Panther for Best Picture. However, the Academy still has a long way to go in truly recognizing the social importance of superhero movies.
Role of Videogames
Another factor to consider is the role of videogames in popularizing the superhero genre. Most superhero movies are based on pre-existing comic/video game franchises. This means that the success of these superhero movies is largely due to pre-existing fan bases built through videogames. This is particularly noticeable in the popularity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which was heavily influenced by the Marvel videogame franchise.
This means that the Academy’s perception of superhero movies needs to be reexamined. Superhero movies are not simply “super popcorn”; they are also hugely influential works of cinema that deserve to be recognized for their artistic merits. The Academy should take this into consideration when awarding Oscars in the future.
Finally, it is important to consider the role of popular culture in shaping the Academy’s views on superhero movies. Popular culture is a powerful force, and its influence on the Oscars should not be underestimated. For example, the Academy’s decision to nominate Black Panther for Best Picture was seen as a victory for popular culture, as it was a sign that the Academy was finally recognizing the cultural importance of the superhero genre.
In addition, the popularity of superhero movies has also changed the way that movies are marketed and released. This has led to a renewed emphasis on “event movies”, which are increasingly seen as important milestones in popular culture. The Oscars are aware of this, and it is possible that their decisions on awarding Oscars will be influenced by the cultural importance of superhero movies in the future.
In conclusion, the Academy’s bias against superhero movies is rooted in its own long-held notion of what constitutes “real cinema”. This attitude has been damaging to the genre, as it is preventing it from being recognized for its artistic merits. The Academy should reconsider its views on the superhero genre and recognize it for the legitimate form of cinema that it is.