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The Oscars Continue To Make History With 2024's 2SLGBTQI+ Nominated Performances

The Oscars Continue To Make History With 2024’s 2SLGBTQI+ Nominated Performances

The nominees at the 96th Academy Awards broke new ground this year by elevating queer characters to the mainstream…

By Matthew Creith

Every year, when the Academy Award nominations are announced, there seems to be endless amounts of information that suddenly pours in about what records have been broken. Halle Berry broke new ground for Black female actors when she was nominated and ultimately won Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance in the 2001 film Monsters Ball. Similarly, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the Best Directing Oscar when she beat out her ex-husband, James Cameron, for The Hurt Locker in 2010.

History was made in a different manner on January 23, 2024, as actors Jack Quaid and Zazie Beetz announced the full slate of nominees for the 96th Academy Awards. Films and performances from 2023 will be honored during Hollywood’s biggest night on March 10, where the winners might continue a trend the 2SLGBTQI+ community has been waiting a long time to witness. Among those chosen by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are two out A-listers (Jodie Foster and Colman Domingo), who are nominated for playing out gay characters, a relatively new phenomenon for the film acting profession.

But history isn’t just made by those who wait their turn and hope for the best from earning top honors in the film industry. This time around, a stunning 35% of those nominated in the acting categories at the Oscars are for roles defined by LGBTQ+ characters, including that of Foster and Domingo. Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Annette Bening, Sandra Hüller, and Sterling K. Brown have all been nominated in their respective acting categories for playing 2SLGBTQI+ characters, an astounding moment for a community longing to see representation achieved at the highest levels in filmmaking.

Some of these performances that continue to break records during awards season represent real-life people whose stories in biographical films might lead to Oscars glory. Annette Bening’s career has seen some incredible highs, including her lead performance in 1999’s American Beauty, which many pundits believe should have been her moment to take home the Academy Award. That year, Hilary Swank bested Bening, winning the golden statue for playing the real-life Brandon Teena in Boys Don’t Cry, a trans person whose murder shocked the United States. Bening is up for the same award again this year as she’s lauded for her performance as queer swimmer Diana Nyad in Netflix’s Nyad.

Similarly, Bradley Cooper’s turn as the closeted composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein has given the actor much room for praise in recent months, nabbing several nominations as both the male lead, co-writer, and producer of the film Maestro. The now-12-time nominee might grab his first-ever win after playing the real-life Bernstein as authentically as possible opposite Carey Mulligan and Matt Bomer. Bernstein’s life was controversial as the famed conductor hid affairs with male artists from his wife and the general public.

Column Domingo’s first-ever nomination follows the same pattern. However, his performance as the civil rights leader Bayard Rustin has garnered much praise, considering the Emmy Award-winner is only the second gay man nominated for Best Actor for playing a gay character. Ian McKellen famously played director James Whale in 1998’s Gods and Monsters, the first time in the history of the Academy Awards that an out actor was nominated in that category for playing an out character. Andrew Scott of All of Us Strangers would have tied Domingo’s achievement had he been nominated this year, but the Irish performer failed to garner his first nomination in a crowded field.

Emma Stone and Sandra Hüller are battling it out for the Oscar for Best Actress this year, along with Bening; the three performances represent 2SLGBTQI+ characters at the most heightened levels. Stone’s fluid Bella Baxter and Hüller’s possibly murderous bisexual character make up some of the most promising and exciting turns in recent memory. Their nominations are not only historic for actors who have provided incredibly thought-provoking moments in their respective careers but a well-deserved moment for complex 2SLGBTQI+ characters that aren’t defined by a biographical film angle or a traditional coming-out journey that’s usually in line with the Academy’s nominations approach.

Rounding out the supporting categories is veteran actor Jodie Foster, and This Is Us alum Sterling K. Brown. While the former was last nominated for an Academy Award in the 1990s and has taken home the statue twice in her career, Brown has created waves this year with his hilarious performance as Clifford Ellison in American Fiction. Starring opposite Jeffrey Wright in the comedy, Brown’s take on the slutty gay brother of the film’s protagonist has been one of the highlights of awards season thus far.

Though it isn’t a remarkable feat to be nominated for an Academy Award for playing an 2SLGBTQI+ character, it’s pretty extraordinary that seven out of twenty of the performances nominated this year are for playing these complicated characters. Every year, talented actors seem to break new records, and this year is no exception. Come March 10, queer representation will reach new heights when a few of these actors might take home film’s highest honor.

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