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Ask the Experts: Taking Oscar's Pulse with Gemma Puglisi

AU SOC professor Gemma Puglisi answers WalletHub's compelling Oscar questions.

Professor Gemma Puglisi talks Oscar's for WalletHub

For a closer look at a variety of issues related to the Academy Awards, from demographics to dollars and cents, WalletHub posed the following questions to a panel of leading business and entertainment experts, including American University School of Communication  (AU SOC) professor Gemma Puglisi.

WalletHub: What impact would the lack of diversity in the main categories have on the awards? Will they be considered less relevant for the general public as time goes by?

Professor Puglisi: As you may remember, the outcry years ago for the lack of diversity in front of the camera and behind, was impactful. The #OscarsSoWhite Movement held Hollywood and the Academy accountable.

We have seen some changes made and by 2024, according to the Academy's guidelines, there will be more standards to follow—requiring films to meet "two of four diversity standards to be eligible for a best-picture nomination."

And this year, if the Academy follows suit from other award shows including the recent SAG Awards, inclusion will be at the forefront, finally, according to some.

Michelle Yeoh, lead actress for "Everything Everywhere All at Once," who won at the SAG Awards, mentioned in her speech that the award was not just for "me, but for all of the little girls like me..." In her Golden Globe win, she also shared the struggles she had coming to Hollywood and the challenges she faced as an Asian actress.

If we continue to see the lack of diversity in the Academy, it will have more serious consequences. But as mentioned, their guidelines will continue and we will see their impact of them in the next year or two. 

WalletHub: In light of the past years’ controversies, the Academy has worked to improve the diversity of the awards (from the implementation of new representation and inclusion standards to the diversification of its membership). What else can be done to address this critical issue?

Professor Puglisi: I am a teacher. So, for me, it is all about education. When I taught my Entertainment class several years ago, I made it a point to include the impact of diversity. I showed a short clip of Hattie McDaniel, the extraordinary actress who won an Academy Award for her role as "Mammy" in the film, "Gone with the Wind." She was the first African American to win an Oscar. Her speech was emotional and rightfully so. That was back in 1939. It took more than two decades before another actor won, Sidney Poiter, for "Lilies of the Field." I remember seeing that film as a little girl and was mesmerized by his performance.

So, education is important. We have to educate the public, the industry, and the Academy to listen to diverse voices.

WalletHub: Do you believe the current system of nominating films is a fair and transparent one? How can this process be improved?

Professor Puglisi: The million-dollar question. I think there are so many factors. Because of social media, there is a lot written about films. In the past, the critics played a huge role, in my opinion, in influencing the films and if you should go and see them. Today, it is not just the critics anymore. It is also individuals influencing friends and others to see a film. I think that influences what gets nominated. It is the buzz.

But as mentioned, the Academy is implementing new guidelines that take effect in 2024 for best film—so we should be seeing hopefully more diversity, equity, and inclusion.

I also see the challenges women directors face. Why are women directors still having a hard time being recognized? Women have done such a great job in front and behind the camera. There again needs to be more opportunities and accountability on all fronts.

WalletHub: Who is going to win the award for Best Actor? Actress? Director? Motion Picture?

Professor Puglisi: Wow. Judging from many of the recent award shows, I am going to say —

Best Actor — Hmmm. I have always been an Elvis Presley fan. But I think the Oscar may go to Brendan Fraser. What a comeback!

Best Actress — If the SAG Awards is an indication of what is ahead, I think the trophy will go to Michelle Yeoh.

Best Director — Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert for "Everything Everywhere All at Once."

Best Film — Ok. I will go to my students for this one. Riley Gillis, the film critic for American University's Student paper, "The Eagle," tells me the statue should go to "Everything Everywhere All at Once." I will go with Riley!

*This article was originally published by