But what about Jessica Chastain? Aside from the fact that she’s a stunning redhead and that alone deserves a polite nod of recognition; as an actress, she’s the gift that keeps on giving. In 2011 she gave us a charmingly ditzy performance as southern belle Celia in The Help. This year she’s nominated for her gripping turn in Zero Dark Thirty as CIA operative, Maya, of which she’s already nabbed a Golden Globe for Best Actress. What’s not to like?
The New York Times dubbed her a “long shot” for the Oscars. Which seems odd, considering how effortlessly she pulled off the complicated character of Maya.
So, what’s the deal? Is this snub all a misunderstanding? Could the Academy be discriminating against redheads? Probably not, but let’s take a look.
4. The competition:
1. Emmaneulle Riva turns 86 on the night of the awards. It wouldn’t just be an epic birthday treat, it would also make her the oldest Best Actresswinner in Oscar history. (She’s already the oldest female nominee of all time.) That’s not to say that she didn’t give a stunning performance—on the contrary, it was extraordinary, and if she won we’d eagerly await what would surely be the cutest acceptance speech of all time. (She’s French, old and cute? Yes, yes, please put her on a stage.)
2. Then there’s the phenomenon that is J.Law. She exploded onto the film scene and became an Internet treasure as a result of her cheeky interviews and even cheekier magazine spreads. She’s nominated for her part in Silver Linings Playbook as the quirky—well, quirky is a euphemism for emotionally drained—girl recovering from her husband’s unexpected death. I loved her in that film, and I wept in the final scene when—spoiler alert—she and Bradley Cooper finally admitted their true feelings for each other. She was brilliant and beautiful, and sometimes annoyingly great at bootie dancing.
3. This year also has the youngest nominee in Oscars history, with Quvenzhané Wallis, who’s just 9 years old. Like her fellow nominees, she earned that recognition, and she’s unbelievably talented.
5. The problem with this kind of competition.
The Oscars, much like high school, is all one big popularity contest. And if you took out age altogether, then hands down Lawrence would win. She’s a breakout star, a media darling, and there’s just no knowing what she’ll say next. (Especially now that “I beat Meryl!” is officially off the list. It was controversial, yes, but not in a way that would send the government after you.)
But when you do bring age into it, Jessica is a 35-year-old woman trapped in the shadow of the youngest nominee ever and the oldest. If either Riva or Wallis won, the headlines the next day would practically write themselves. “The World’s Youngest Oscar Winner Makes Everyone Cry With Happiness!” (Same goes for Riva, just sub out the word “Youngest” for “Oldest” and you’ve got yourself a great story to read.)
7. The “Zero Dark Thirty” controversy:
Zero Dark Thirty was, and still remains, a controversial film. It was one that hasRepublicans, Democrats, Washington and the Academy majorly spooked. The Oscars aren’t the Golden Globes. They’re not looking for bizarre speeches from Jodie Foster or trying to be provocative. They want entertainment, just not the kind that makes a statement.
8. The problem with the controversy:
The only problem is that, sure, the film may be controversial, or whatever, but Chastain isn’t. In fact, she’s made a point of avoiding controversy, and even released a statement about how there’s absolutely no bad blood between her and fellow female nominees. “Please don’t allow the media to perpetuate the myth that women aren’t supportive of each other… With support and encouragement, we help to inspire this industry to create opportunities for women.”
Does that sound like a woman who would say something controversial during a speech? Or whose win would stir anger in the hearts of the angry? No, it doesn’t. OK, so, clearly Chastain isn’t controversial. In fact, she’s a peach, and we should just take that off the Oscar table right now.
10. In defense of why she shouldn’t be written off or called a “long shot”:
Jessica legitimately deserved to be nominated for an Academy Award for her performance. She also legitimately deserves to win. Her performance was compelling, sympathetic and the strongest female lead out of all of her fellow nominees. There were scenes when you thought she might breakdown, in particular after witnessing a gruesome torture session. Coupled with scenes where you thought she might Hulk-out with rage, especially when the men in charge weren’t taking her opinions seriously.
And yet, she’s essentially been written off in this race. Perhaps it’s an honor to be nominated in a category with people who have the potential to make history, as well as those who have unstoppable momentum. But the thing is, she is one of those people. Her win would make a fantastic story. Jessica is a breakout star in her own right and was named one of the most influential people in the world by Time.
If nothing else, she’d only be the second natural redhead in history to win a Best Actress award, just after Nicole Kidman’s 2002 win for The Hours. So, that’s something…right?