The summer box office made 2017 the year of breakout female stars, but a quick glance through this year’s Oscar nominees would suggest their movies aren't even noteworthy.
“Girls Trip” single-handedly saved R-rated comedies at the box office when it debuted in summer 2017, grossing an impressive $31.2 million over its opening weekend in North America alone – the largest revenue brought in by a live-action comedy that year. Similarly, “Wonder Woman” recorded a whopping total domestic gross of more than $412 million, igniting a cultural revolution championing strong, feminine women and becoming the most-tweeted-about movie of 2017.
Despite their mass influence, neither “Girls Trip” nor “Wonder Woman” are up for an Oscar in any category this season. To be fair, neither movie should be, judging by traditional Oscars standards. So, in order for them to receive the Oscar notoriety they merit, the 90-year-old ceremony should add a new category tailor-made for groundbreaking achievements.
Superhero blockbusters and ensemble comedies certainly don’t belong in competition with any of the films nominated in major categories like Best Picture, Writing (Original Screenplay) or Actress in Leading Role – sorry, Gal Gadot – yet cinematic phenoms like the characters from “Wonder Woman” and "Girls Trip" continue to stun large portions of an unsatisfied public each year the academy shuts them out.
In light of their accomplishments, their lack of recognition somehow feels unjust. As new crops of diverse filmmakers and storytelling methods emerge, such groundbreaking achievements in film deserve their own Oscar category – one that overlooks the minutiae of artistic filmmaking in favor of the bigger societal picture.
The proposed new category – let’s call it Groundbreaking Achievement in Film – would provide an avenue of justice for flicks like “Wonder Woman” and “Girls Trip,” which manage the difficult balancing act of presenting new perspectives on a lucrative, high-profile platform. The movies don’t deserve Oscar status for their impressive box office performances alone; they deserve it because they feature nuanced protagonists so rarely found onscreen – "Wonder Woman" stars a tenacious Amazonian goddess, and "Girls Trip" headlines an all-black women friend group.
That’s not to say there isn’t a place for new, diverse narratives in high film – standout Oscar nominees like “Lady Bird,” a bildungsroman starring and directed by women, and “Get Out,” a horror satire commenting on racial dynamics in the United States, also qualify as revolutionary. "Call Me by Your Name," a romance between two men, also deserves its own category in addition to the existing four for which it's already nominated. In this regard, Groundbreaking Achievement in Film would operate like any other category at the awards, which invite repeat nominees and even repeat winners.
“Get Out,” for example, would be a top contender for Best Picture, Directing and the new category, if such a category were a reality. Had Groundbreaking Achievement in Film existed at last year’s show, “Moonlight,” which follows a gay, black character growing up in Miami, undoubtedly would have clinched both the Groundbreaking and Best Picture trophies – without the threat of a second “La La Land” snafu.
And while the issue of representation in film is a pertinent one, what qualifies as groundbreaking should not be limited to onscreen representation only. In recent years, novel stylistic choices have gone underappreciated as well. For example, while “Boyhood” fell short of Best Picture back in 2015, the incredible feat of filming the same cast over the course of a decade could have earned it a better shot at a Groundbreaking Oscar.
To clarify, the purpose of the new category is not to siphon revolutionary ideas into an isolated pen. Creating a venue to celebrate diversity and innovation should not be the academy’s one-stop way of skirting claims about its lack of diversity like #OscarsSoWhite. However, by placing additional value on admirable efforts to redefine the norm, a positive chain reaction of constantly evolving definitions may follow, leading to more comprehensive representation both on and off camera.
Groundbreaking Achievement in Film should offer some form of hard-earned Oscar recognition to diverse pop culture successes while providing extra recognition to films with added critical flair. The result: A supercategory of visionaries ranging from Patty Jenkins to Jordan Peele.
Oh, and my front runner for next year, if and when Groundbreaking Achievement in Film is implemented? “Black Panther."