The Oscars debate about Emma Stone and Lily Gladstone has turned ugly, but we need to have it.

You didn't need to be in the room at the 2024 Academy Awards to be aware that, from the moment Emma Stone was named Best Actress, a narrative began to form around her win.

Whether it be the dissection of her winner's reaction and the look of wary shock that passed across her face as she looked to her Poor Things cast mates for confirmation, or the conversation now bubbling away when it came to videos of Killers of the Flower Moon director Martin Scorsese seemingly comforting actress Lily Gladstone after the Best Actress category had passed, a story quickly locked into place.

Emma Stone had won Best Actress over Lily Gladstone, the night's more 'deserving' winner, and many people were not happy about it.

Of course, you can project any narrative you choose onto something as emotional as an Oscar acceptance speech. So when Stone turned to Gladstone during her moment on stage and said, "Lily, I share this with you", was there an undertone of apology there, as some suspect? Or just a strong camaraderie between two women who have just navigated the wild world of awards season side by side?

The stream of anger directed at Stone for her win can be traced back to the fact she and Gladstone have been neck and neck throughout most of the awards season, and the Best Actress category was really the only moment during Oscars night where true suspense and surprise were able to come into play.

Every other Oscar category seemingly already had a winner locked in before Jimmy Kimmel began his opening monologue. But after Gladstone won Best Actress at the Screen Actors Guild Awards for her performance in Killers of the Flower Moon — shortly after becoming the first Indigenous woman to win Best Actress in a Drama at the Golden Globes — and Stone took out Best Actress at The British Academy Film Awards for Poor Things, the Oscar win could have swung either way.


Listen to The Spill hosts share stories behind the 2024 Oscars red carpet. 

Neither Stone nor Gladstone have weighed in on the backlash surrounding the Best Actress win (one only hopes that they are both currently neck-deep in champagne at fabulous afterparty events and unaware of the noise), but it's currently the main story linked to both their names in every corner of the online world.

Articles with headlines bemoaning that Gladstone was "robbed" or reporting that her win was met with surprise, anger and even confusion are circulating, with a stream of comments beneath them turning into an ugly debate over who the winner should have been.

Acting, like any artistic endeavour, is always going to be subjective, so there's never any real way to determine whose work is truly best. But when you look closer at the debate raging over who should have won Best Actress, people are not arguing over the performances themselves; they are fighting over which actress had the more deserving story.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a person (although I'm sure somewhere on the internet they are making themselves known) who would disagree with the fact that Stone and Gladstone both gave nuanced, brave and career-defining performances in their respective Oscar movies.


But when it came to the backstories behind their nominations, it was always clear that Gladstone had more at stake when it came to her name potentially being read off the winner's ballot.

Gladstone is the first Native American to be nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award and winning the category would have added an extra level to her already historic awards season run. Prior to being cast in the Scorsese film, Gladstone was ready to walk away from acting and enroll in a data analytics course, all because — despite already turning in some brilliant performances — there didn't appear to be a place for her in Hollywood.

Prior to the Oscar announcement, it was thought that Gladstone would be placed in the Best Supporting Actress category, but her move into Best Actress mirrored how her role in Killers of the Flower Moon had been extended, with the film's script being revamped in preproduction to better centre her character in the heart of the story — a true reflection of her importance in the film.

On paper, the Oscars were never supposed to be about personal stories over performance, and it seems distasteful to pit two women's names against each other in this way. Especially as the two women in question have told endless stories about the friendship they have built in the lead-up to the Oscars as the two Best Actress frontrunners, sharing everything from friendship rings to late-night text exchanges.


While the debate may have turned ugly, it's one we need to keep exploring. All because what people are really mourning is how Gladstone's story ended, not the fact that Stone won.

 In her speech, Emma Stone said, "Lily, I share this with you." Image: Getty. 


I've often thought that while an Oscar's win can be forgotten, an Oscar's moment lasts forever, and for some performers, a memorable appearance at the awards show can be more valuable than clutching a statue. 

There are countless actor's names that have disappeared from movie posters after their Oscar wins, and plenty of stars whose careers have soared after never hearing their names called. All signs point to the fact that Gladstone will go on to have a successful career, even without this particular Oscar win.

But how many years will we have to wait until a moment like this swings around again?

It has taken 96 years for a Native American woman to be nominated in that category, and while there have been some strong steps forward in terms of diversity (the nominee lineup for this year's awards is one of the more diverse in the show's history), things are not progressing in the winner's circle in the way people had hoped.

The debate shouldn't be Emma Stone or Lily Gladstone — the conversation should instead be focused on why there aren't more diverse names on the nominations list.

So that we don't have to wait close to another hundred years for another 'first' like this to roll around.

Laura Brodnik is Mamamia's Head of Entertainment and host of The Spill podcast. You can follow her on Instagram here.

Feature Image: Getty. 

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