The Lily Gladstone Moment

02/04/2024

James Lapping (he/him) examines the significance of Lily Gladstone’s historic Oscar nomination

Article Image

Image by IMDb

By James Lapping

The Oscars made history in 2024 with Lily Gladstone being the first ever Native American actor to receive a nomination for her role as Mollie Burkhart in Martin Scorsese’s epic, Killers of the Flower Moon. Despite losing out on Best Actress to Emma Stone for her role in Poor Things, this can still be seen as a momentous occasion for Native Americans within mainstream popular culture.

Gladstone’s role as Burkhart helped turn the spotlight onto a dark and sinister part of American history. The reign of terror on the Osage communities by criminals looking to get their hands on Native oil money was portrayed candidly by Scorsese. Simultaneously, the complex and problematic dynamics in the relationships that occurred between victims and perpetrators, such as between Mollie and Ernest (Leonardo DiCaprio), were captured poignantly in a standout performance by Gladstone.

Poor Things was released late in 2023, which meant that in the run up to the Oscars, pundits had initially tipped Gladstone to win Best Actress. And although she didn’t win, she can be proud of an already prolific career despite not being at the forefront of the mainstream until fairly recently. According to an Instagram post by Indigenous TV (@indigenous.tv), Gladstone has already had 58 wins and 96 nominations in her acting career. She is still only 37.

A major leading role in a blockbuster Hollywood film can carry a lot of influence. Gladstone has been using it. Before working with Scorsese, she featured in Erica Tremblay’s Fancy Dance. The film was widely lauded after it premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival but was ignored by distributors. However, using her recently found status as a superstar, she has managed to get the film onto Apple TV+ with a 2024 release date pending. This is incredibly significant. Statistics from the women-led racial and social justice organisation, Illuminative, state that in the top 1,600 films from 2007-2022, not a single film featured a female Native American character with a speaking role. In 2024, Native American women are getting nominated for the Oscars and influence global streaming services.

This really highlights the zeitgeist moment that Gladstone is riding right now. It is also without a doubt that there are many other tremendous Native American women that deserve to be leading ladies in Hollywood too. Let’s hope that the Lily Gladstone moment catapults authentic Indigenous visibility to the forefront of the American mainstream.