Oscar frontrunner Jane Campion slammed for 'insulting' comments about Venus and Serena Williams

Jane Campion
(Image credit: Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Critics Choice Association)

Not long after The Power of the Dog director Jane Campion slammed Sam Elliott for "sexist" remarks about her movie, she ended up under fire herself.

The Power of the Dog won big at Sunday's Critics Choice Awards, taking Best Picture as Campion won Best Director. While accepting the latter award, Campion praised Venus and Serena Williams, who were in attendance because they produced Best Picture nominee King Richard.

"Venus and Serena, what an honor to be in the room with you," Campion said.

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But Campion drew criticism for adding, before mentioning her male competition in the directing category, "You know, Serena and Venus, you are such marvels. However, you do not play against the guys like I have to."

Campion's comment drew cheers in the room, but she subsequently faced online backlash, with Rewire News Group's Imani Gandy slamming her for "[deciding] to tear two Black women down for no f--king reason whatsoever."

Critic Carolyn Hinds also called the comments "racist," adding that the audience laughing showed "they're ok with the casual racism because they don't see racism the way we do," while Chicago Sun-Times sports editor Gene Farris wrote, "Anyone who knows anything about Venus and Serena's careers wouldn't think to utter something this stupid and insulting."

Campion is widely seen as the frontrunner to win Best Director at the Oscars, where she would become the third woman ever to do so. Her film The Power of the Dog is also the frontrunner to win Best Picture, and it scored top prizes over the weekend at the Directors Guild of America Awards, the British Academy Film Awards, and the Critics Choice Awards.

Prior to her remark about the Williams sisters, Campion pushed back Saturday against Sam Elliott after the actor slammed The Power of the Dog. She told Variety his comments were "a little bit sexist" and that he was "being a little bit of a B-I-T-C-H."

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Brendan Morrow

Brendan is a staff writer at The Week. A graduate of Hofstra University with a degree in journalism, he also writes about horror films for Bloody Disgusting and has previously contributed to The Cheat Sheet, Heavy, WhatCulture, and more. He lives in New York City surrounded by Star Wars posters.