Tonight’s Best Picture win for Everything Everywhere All At Once is the first time a movie with a queer woman main character nabbed the Academy Awards’ number one most important top primo prize. There have been implied or subtextually or possibly queer female characters in Best Picture winners of years prior: Mrs. Danvers in the 1940 winner Rebecca, Matron Mama Morten in 2002’s Chicago, Clarice Starling in the 1991 film Silence of the Lambs. But Everything Everywhere All At Once is the first winner in which a queer female character was explicitly named as such — and not just that, but her queerness is integral to the film’s plot. Stephanie Hsu’s Joy Yang is the gay daughter of lead character Evelyn Quan Wang (Michelle Yeoh) and Waymond Wang (Ke Huy Quan) in the film that also won awards for Original Screenplay, Editing and Directing.
It’s the second LGBTQ+ film to win Best Picture — the first was Moonlight in 2016.
Previously, films with explicitly queer female characters have earned nominations: Vice and The Favourite (2018), Black Swan and The Kids Are All Right (2010), Milk (2008), The Hours (2002) and arguably The Color Purple (1985). Tár, which was centered on a lesbian lead character, was also nominated this year —- but Everything Everywhere All At Once is the first to win.
Michelle Yeoh became the first Asian-American actor to win Best Actress, after being only the second-ever nominated (although Merle Oberon, the first nominated for an Academy Award, in 1935, was passing as white at the time). Yeoh was also the first Malaysian person ever nominated for an Academy Award in any category and the second woman of color to win an award for Lead Actor. Furthermore, Ke Huy Quan made all of us cry when he won Best Supporting Actor.
Sarah Polley’s Women Talking, which dared to cast a trans character in a trans role, secured the W for Best Adapted Screenplay and also wore a suit, which was a really nice touch!
Another notable first: Ruth E. Carter became the first Black woman to win two Oscars when she won for Costume Design for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Her prior win was for the original Black Panther film.
There were also some pretty disappointing choices made by the Academy in the year of our lord 2023: Angela Bassett was passed over for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, as was Stephanie Hsu. Also; there was a makeup team victory for those assholes who made The Whale that was upsetting on several levels!