Jennifer Lopez's Oscars Snub Is Frustrating, but Not Surprising

True Lopez fans saw the Academy's snub coming. 

Jennifer Lopez Oscar Snub
Photo: Michael Buckner/Variety/Shutterstock

Good morning to everyone — except the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

After earning a Golden Globe nomination, Screen Actors Guild Awards nomination, Film Independent Spirit Awards nomination, Gotham Awards nomination, Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards win, and about a dozen other nominations and wins, Jennifer Lopez was unceremoniously snubbed when it came to the highest echelon of awards recognition: the Oscars.

Lopez, who plays the fur coat-clad Robin Hood of Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers, earned the best reviews of her life for her performance as street-smart Ramona. This year, for the first time since the multi-hyphenate’s acclaimed performance as Selena Quintanilla in the singer’s 1997 self-titled biopic, an Oscar nomination felt well within reach. And, once more, the honor eluded Lopez.

The snub is frustrating, but not entirely surprising. Lopez has been acting, and acting well, for three decades. It’s not like her skills sharpened overnight and she finally turned in a performance that (almost) everyone could agree was awards-worthy. Rather, Lopez has spent the bulk of her acting career elevating films that did not deserve her. Even Selena, which stands as one of Lopez’s most celebrated performances, had the lazy script of a made-for-TV movie. And then what? Monster-in-Law? The Boy Next Door? No matter how committed a performance she gave, these films were never going to propel her through the awards circuit.

Whether acting, dancing, singing, or reprising a plunging Versace red carpet moment, Lopez gives every job her absolute all. So why can’t we finally give her the awards recognition she deserves? (Note: this chart-topping Queen is still without a Grammy.)

Jennifer Lopez - Hustlers
Alison Cohen Rosa

Perhaps this continuous oversight stems from the force that is Lopez the celebrity, someone whose name is more often associated with the A-list news cycle than the work that put her on said A-list — a power that was highlighted when she hosted Saturday Night Live this past December. Instead of performing in sketches that emphasized her talents, Lopez was paraded about in skits that focused on one thing: her appearance. First, she gave a monologue that concluded with her re-wearing the Versace gown she’d broken the internet with at the designer’s Milan show months prior — another exhausting drop in the “J. Lo looks so good for 50!” bucket. Then, she played a wife so far out of her husband’s league that no one can understand why they’re together; followed by a beautiful young girl whose sisters attempt to convince her she’s ugly so that they can win the attention of a man. Yes, Lopez is genetically blessed, but that shouldn't eclipse her skill.

There’s also the question of context. Despite pushes for diversity in recent years, the Academy remains 68% male and 84% white. Not only is Hustlers a women’s story, but it’s the story of marginalized women of color — strippers, criminals. Instead, the Academy chose to honor a slate of films with mostly all-white casts that covered awards-bait-y topics (Divorce! White men rationalizing their motivation for violence! Old Hollywood! Old gangsters!).

If Lopez is the unfair victim of Academy bias, Scarlett Johansson is the victor. The Jojo Rabbit and Marriage Story star earned both supporting and lead actress Oscar nominations for her respective performances — her first in either category. In the former, she plays a mother harboring a Jewish girl in Nazi Germany. In Marriage Story, Johansson plays a mother once more — this time an actress in the throes of a divorce from her director husband (Adam Driver). These are the sorts of women characters the Academy gravitates toward — well-meaning, not too polarizing, and (if this year’s nominations hold any weight), preferably blonde. That's not to say that Scarlett's performances in those films weren't great, it's just that, well, we know that those are the roles the Academy likes to reward.

Hustlers felt so acutely like Lopez’s moment that this snub makes us wonder whether she’ll ever be the kind of actress Hollywood takes seriously. But, in the wise words of Ramona, “everybody’s hustling,” and Academy be damned, we’re positive that this disappointment won’t derail Lopez’s decades-long drive for success.

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