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Every year around this time, the Oscars discourse becomes an unstoppable beast of hyperbole. This year is no different, as responses to Barbie’s supposed snubs ranged from absurd to downright racist.
But while the Barbie discourse gained steam, another group of fans began to make their presence known. Many cinephiles pointed out that this white feminist outrage overshadowed the meaningful successes of women of color this year (Danielle Brooks and Da’Vine Joy Randolph, for example). In particular, fans of Lily Gladstone, star of Killers of the Flower Moon, were incensed by her erasure from the discussion and worked to make their voices heard.
A sense of defensiveness is endemic to fandom rhetoric. In this case, fans rooting for Gladstone feel a kind of righteous indignation on behalf of their fave, whose historic nomination got lost in the noise. Fans were already pissed at the BAFTAs for neglecting to nominate Gladstone, and are now wishing ill will on the Oscars if she doesn’t win. The “lily gladstone nation,” as one fan called it, have taken it upon themselves to run her Oscars campaign, hoping to secure her a win through their passionate posting.
As this controversy illustrated with stark clarity, fandom is inextricable from social and political concerns. Contemporary understandings of identity are ingrained in pop culture. People connect their identity to the movies they watch, the music they listen to, or the sports teams they root for. It’s no wonder the discourse gets heated when these topics are so personal.
Awards generate discourse for the same reasons. They are symbolic qualifiers of importance that can determine who deserves to be represented on the big screen. In her Golden Globes acceptance speech, Gladstone touched on this significance, speaking in Blackfoot and dedicating her award to “every little Native kid out there.” Awards shows matter like sports games matter—because people have imbued them with meaning. Fans root for their favorites because they want them to receive this recognition.
There are numerous reasons why fans are excited by Gladstone’s nomination. First and foremost is her astounding performance in the film. Gladstone also made history by becoming the first Native American nominated for Best Actress, and as some fans have noted, could be the first non-binary person to win an Oscar. (Gladstone uses she/they pronouns to honor her indigenous heritage.)
Gladstone represents different things to different people, which is why her nomination has sparked so much passion. One fan on X commented that Native women were the only women not represented in Barbie, which is why Gladstone winning would mean so much to them.
These fans are also making an implicit argument that Gladstone deserves to become a star like her peers in the industry. She’s gotten the stan treatment online, with fans posting photos and videos of her highlighting her talent and beauty. The result is a charming dichotomy between the seriousness of her role and the silly fancams people make about her, set to songs by Megan Thee Stallion and Beyoncé. It’s the fans’ way of showing love and bestowing stardom on Gladstone.
Why it matters
The Oscars are a frivolous ceremony, but the discussions they generate reflect very real issues. Fans put their energy into supporting the things they believe in, whether that’s a TV show, an actor, or a sports team.
Rooting for Lily Gladstone means rooting for a great performance, but perhaps it also means rooting for truth, beauty, and little something called justice.