Jennifer Lawrence & The Problem With Female Oscar Roles

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Jennifer Lawrence doesn’t deserve the Best Actress award this year.

It feels weird to write it out, especially as an adamant J.Law supporter, but this isn’t the role she should win for, it feels too gratuitous. If she was going to win for anything she’s done to date, it should have been for Winter’s Bone.

I want my Best Actress nominees to exist unto themselves and not as a side character in a film about a man. I don’t want to meet them through an introduction to our male protagonist, and any film that claims a Best Actress nominee through that framework is lazy. The Academy is too lazy for the nomination in the first place, and Hollywood is lazy for trying to pass off what is inherently a supporting role as a lead in the first place.

The problem is there aren’t enough films with actual lead roles for women. There is a dearth of films that are, first and foremost, written for a woman to carry.

We’ve heard accolades about Lawrence’s performance in Silver Linings Playbook since the film’s release last fall, and yet the movie is about the journey of Bradley Cooper’s character. Sure, Cooper got nominated as well, but why wasn’t Lawrence nominated for Best Supporting Actress if the story isn’t about her?

Maybe it has to do with screentime, maybe she’s in too much of the movie. But it doesn’t change the fact that her character is still a supporting role in movie about Bradley Cooper’s character.

Our Best Actress nominees are all more than capable of shouldering their own stories- they don’t need to exist as secondary roles in a man’s story. The whole situation feels very similar to Reese Witherspoon’s role in Walk the Line, another excellent movie filled with amazing performances, but at the end of the day, it was a movie about Johnny Cash. Maybe by the end of it one could argue that it was about Johnny and June, but it started off with Johnny’s journey and it finished with his too.

Not one of the Best Actor nominees was a secondary lead to an actress in any of their films; if they had been, they would have almost certainly been relegated to the Supporting category. Hell, even in the Best Supporting Actor category all the nominees were in films about men.

Want an example? Take a look at Amour. Emanuelle Riva, whose breathtaking performance is the central story of the film, was nominated for Best Actress. Jean-Louis Trintignant, the man who plays her husband and caretaker, was nominated for nothing at the Academy Awards. But internationally? He won a Cesar Award in France, as well as two other major European awards and two other nominations for Best Actor.

What does this say about the state of American cinema? Why are we so afraid to let women take the lead when it comes to making serious films?

This is not a takedown of Lawrence’s performance; if anything, it is a takedown of the state of the industry. An industry when even an award for Best Actress- an award for a woman- is really for a story about a man. Lawrence’s character is working the entire film to change Cooper, to coax him out of his old ways and habits and eventually gets him to change for the better.

She does an incredible job. But she couldn’t do it without him.

In any case, my pick for Best Actress this year is Emanuelle Riva. Bon chance.

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