Airing Sunday night, the Oscars have sparked much contention over this year’s nominations for Best Picture. For some, the debate is as heated as the current political climate, while for others, the current awards season is as banal and predictable as ever. As La La Land tackles accusations of cultural appropriation, other nominees face accusations of “Oscarbation.”

Oscarbation is a process derived from the term “Oscar-bait,” which refers to films seemingly created only to win the cherished golden statuette. These films are deemed much more serious or artistic, evoking feelings of inspiration or depression. And for the most part, this rings true. Films dominating the Oscars in the past are not horror films or comedies, but are typically period dramas set against sensitive historical backdrops such as the Holocaust, the Civil Rights Movement and slavery. In more recent years, films that flatter the creative process, and the Academy itself, have succeeded at the Oscars.

In the Oscars ceremonies since 2010, the Best Picture winners have flip-flopped between historical dramas and tributes to the entertainment industry. And that’s only considering the Best Picture category, as these type of films often sweep other major categories too.

Filmmakers aware of these trends release their films near the end of the year for the impending awards season. Harvey Weinstein, now a film mogul, used to create independent films until his success at the Oscars propelled him to a new level of fame. Now he releases most of his Oscar-nominated films — or Oscar-bait — in autumn or winter.

Making films filled with such emotionally charged content is awfully risky, and filmmakers’ efforts shouldn’t be dismissed. However, the films that win these awards are not produced by unknown filmmakers, but rather prestigious film studios with access to talented set designers and cinematographers. More often than not, winners are well-known actors who are given opportunities to work with talented directors and are awarded leading roles based on connections rather than individual talent.

Bernie Sanders’ grave warning that the “very rich get richer, while almost everyone else becomes poorer” is not a phrase limited to social classes. What Sanders referred to is a phenomenon sociologists call the Matthew effect, or accumulated advantage. While one could argue the reason the leading directors and actors get ahead is because they are simply more talented, this type of rhetoric could be a dangerous oversimplification, especially when multidimensional roles are not as easily available for actors — particularly people of color — who are only afforded coveted roles when they fit a certain stereotype.

Perhaps this is why criticisms of La La Land often include a comparison to Moonlight. Of the nine films nominated for Best Picture this year, Moonlight is not only released by an independent production company, but also boasts a relatively unknown male lead and director. Films that have talented but unfamiliar actors rarely make the trip to the Oscars; films including previously nominated actors often overshadow them.

Winning an Oscar obviously does not simply mean taking home a shiny, 13.5-inch man. It solidifies prestige for actors, directors and studios, and allows them to build connections in the industry. And progressive stories — stories that defy stereotypes about race or sexuality — rarely get access to these predominantly white spaces that signify success.