By Michael Slavin
Power of the Dog director Jane Campion drew criticism this weekend for comments made about Serena and Venus Williams in a Critic’s Choice Awards acceptance speech.
Campion received the award for ‘Best Director,’ as well as three others in a successful night for the Best Picture favourite.
Her acceptance speech, however, drew ire from many, with the New Zealand director saying “Venus and Serena, you’re such marvels. However, you don’t play against the guys, like I have to.”
The Williams sisters were in attendance due to their position as Executive Producers of fellow awards contender King Richard.
The comments were widely criticised online, in part due to the pure inaccuracy of the statement. Whilst the Williams sisters have not only faced serious misogyny in their rise to tennis stardom, both sisters have played in Mixed Doubles against men and won multiple titles.
The speech, however, has also been called out for being insensitive to the unique discrimination the pair face as successful Black woman when Campion herself is white. Carolyn Hinds from the African American Film Critics Association commented on the matter: “What Jane Campion said in her speech was not funny or appropriate. It was racist.
“White people laughing, and thinking it was valid shows why they’re still so many damn issues in this industry. They’re okay with the casual racism because they don’t see racism the way we do.”
Jane Campion has since released an apology via a representative saying that she “made a thoughtless comment equating what I do in the film world with all that Serena Williams and Venus Williams have achieved.
“I did not intend to devalue these two legendary Black women and world class athletes”, she went on. “The last thing I would ever want to do is minimize remarkable women.” Serena and Venus Williams have not yet publicly responded.
The row is also set to have a serious effect on the Oscars race this year. With final voting commencing tomorrow, many critics are theorising that these comments may have lost Campion the Oscar for ‘Best Director.’
The Power of the Dog director is the Variety frontrunner for the award, with her nomination making her the first ever woman to be nominated on two occasions for the award.
In the aftermath of this controversy, however, it is believed that the Academy will instead pick another option for ‘Best Director’ with Kenneth Branagh and Stephen Spielberg now being the favourites.