Jon On Film: Awards Season Double Standards: The Curious Case Of Leonardo DiCaprio


It seems as if this is the year that Leonardo DiCaprio will win that (seemingly) elusive Academy Award.

When it was announced that DiCaprio was leading the cast of Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s follow-up to “Birdman,” he surged to the top of everyone’s Best Actor predictions. The fact that “Birdman” netted the top awards at last year’s ceremony (Best Picture and Director, to
name a few) only cemented those chances, it seemed.  Contenders have come and gone, but it’s Leo who seems to be destined for a win.

Which is interesting, given the strength of the category this year; When you look outside of the list awards bodies have come up with (Eddie Redmayne, Johnny Depp, Bryan Cranston, etc…) there’s an embarrassment of riches. Jason Segel and Michael B. Jordan are just two names that come to mind…. but I digress.

We all collectively joke about DiCaprio wanting the Oscar. When he was making his rounds for “Django Unchained” (for which he was not nominated for an Oscar), people joked about the pain in his eyes, watching ‘his’ Golden Globe walk away with co-star Christoph Waltz, who went on to win that year.

And I get why: it’s funny! The man desperately wants an Oscar. I mean, this is the same man who consumed raw bison liver and slept in a dead animal carcass, and has not stopped talking about it since. Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman literally learned ballet for “Black Swan,” and I heard more about them making out with one another in the film than I ever did about their training. But lest you forget that Leo braved hardships filming “The Revenant,” he’s here to remind you on his journey towards an Academy Award.

With that in mind, remember Anne Hathaway campaigning back in 2012 for “Les
Miserables?” Hathaway landed the role of a lifetime as Fantine, and was crowned the winner of the Best Supporting Actress Oscar long before the actual ceremony even took place. She then proceeded to win every award imaginable, and people began lambasting her for seeming like she “wanted” it too much. Take this excerpt from a report from The New York Daily News:

“It came true! The fact that Anne Hathaway managed to become more unlikable, annoying and cloying by winning an Oscar, that is.”

Could you imagine a news outlet writing the same sentence about Leonardo DiCaprio? Right down to openly insulting him? No. I don’t think so.

Look, it’s hard as someone who has to keep winning to keep things fresh, especially since there are 1,001 award shows nowadays. But why shouldn’t Anne Hathaway, or anyone for that matter, want an Oscar? For a role the likes of Fantine that has such a history behind it, one that Hathaway took and completely made her own, despite there being countless incarnations of the same role.

In just one scene, Hathaway created an entire character and gave us a backstory’s worth of characterization, all while singing (beautifully, I might add).

That’s more than I can say about DiCaprio’s performance in “The Revenant,” which checks every box on the official actor’s list to win an Academy Award. However, he never once gives us a sense of who this man is. We see him crawl, grunt and fight his way towards revenge, but never once is there any characterization; DiCaprio may have gone above and beyond in his efforts for awards, but he fails to do the one thing that is truly required of him: Create a character through his performance.

Yet we have continued to cheer Leo on and demand for his Oscar, instead of demeaning him in the way we did with Hathaway. This is not to say that we should all collectively start demeaning DiCaprio’s desire to be awarded. The man has worked hard, and yes he has been nominated before. But it’s interesting that leading men can be established and deserving, while women are annoying, hated and “too wanting.”

The same thing happened to Kate Winslet the year she won her Oscar. The press went wild and slammed her for working the circuit as hard as she did. Her “this isn’t a shampoo bottle anymore” comment when she finally did win the award has since become a running gag, so much so that she was seemingly exasperated at her winning Best Supporting Actress for Steve Jobs. Melissa Leo took out advertisements for her Academy Award campaign, something for which she was ridiculed for. Other actresses have suffered the same fate, but to list their names would only belabor the point. We love our actresses, but we love to take pleasure in their downfall even more.

It’ll be interesting to see where DiCaprio goes from here in terms of public opinion. Though I’m sure we’re all due for a standing ovation come Academy Awards time. I’m also sure, that we will not be seeing any of the headlines about how “insufferable” he is, reminding you that despite it being “The Year Of The Woman,” sexism indeed runs rampant throughout Hollywood. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

If you mention that there’s a rift between how the media interprets determination between genders – or something that sounds better – then I think this’ll work.

– Featured image: Once again there is talks about Leonardo DiCaprio being nominated for an Academy Award.  -Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

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