The Movies, the Academy Awards and Implicit Bias

Gender & Sexism
Bias, Discrimination & Hate
Academy Awards Oscar Statuette
Cliff/Licensed under CC BY 2.0
Grade Level:
High School
Common Core Standards:
Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening
Gender & Sexism
Bias, Discrimination & Hate

The 87th Academy Awards were aired on February 22, 2015 amidst controversy and allegations of racism and sexism in the Academy and movie industry. The annual awards’ show included several political speeches by award recipients that addressed these and other issues, and there was a great deal of discussion on social media and elsewhere after the show about bias in the industry. Alejandro González Iñárritu, a Latino director, won the Academy Award for best director and when he was awarded the Oscar, the presenter made a joke about him having a “green card.” Prior to the show, some expressed their concern that the film Selma was snubbed by the Academy, who nominated the movie for best motion picture but did not select any of the cast or the director for an Oscar nomination. People further questioned that all twenty acting nominees were white. Oscars for the four categories of best actor/actress and best supporting actor/actress have historically neglected people of color.

The Academy Awards and the public discourse about them has inspired a spirited conversation about implicit bias and the role it plays in what films get made, by whom and the extent to which women and people of color get awarded for their roles in film.

In this high school lesson, students will reflect on their own experiences and opinions about movies, analyze demographic information about the movie industry and explore the role of implicit bias.

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