Lights, camera, no action: examining award show culture

by Jasmine Salgado (’26) | February 3, 2023

Art by Matthew Tran (’23)

The list of award shows seems endless: Oscars, Tonys, Emmys, Golden Globes, and, more. Most see award shows as a momentous occasion for actors, filmmakers, and musicians alike to join together in the hopes of going home with joy in their hearts and a trophy in their hands. However, this attempt at honoring the superstars of entertainment has slowly turned into a chore for both the attendees and the viewers at home. 

An obvious issue that that award shows face is their length. The category announcements, victory speeches, movie clips, commercials, and jokes from the host result in a three-and-a-half-hour ordeal. When the alternative for learning who wins is simply to find a list online in a matter of seconds, the ideal choice is painfully clear. On the other hand, the attempt from the 94th Academy Awards to shorten the length of the ceremonies by including a portion of pre-recorded material in the live ceremony also backfired. These sections still included the usual order of announcements and speeches, saving only minutes of the entire show once it was compiled.

The problem producers face with timing also causes their limited demographic and a decline in at-home viewers. Recent surveys show that over half of the viewers of award shows are 55 or older. The 2021 Oscars suffered a shocking 64% drop in viewers in comparison to 2016. The Emmy Awards have faced a 31% drop, and the MTV Movie and TV Awards a 67% decrease. Such statistics raise questions on what fundamental changes caused this decline—whether that be from the shows themselves, the audience, or both. 

Another issue prevalent in award show culture is the differentiation between popular and “good” media; in other words, what content the general public enjoyed most as opposed to what the critics did. This subjective understanding of what makes great art is bound to cause problems when award shows must have a sole victor. This impressionability seems to put the entire concept of award shows in a new light, leading one to question the basis of the system for awarding films as a whole.

At the end of the day, no matter the issues these shows must tackle to expand their audience, larger-than-life celebrities will continue to attend them in order to promote themselves and their brands. However, with the countless ways that stars can share information about themselves through shorter, more easily digestible social media platforms, award shows are in danger of irrelevance. 

The goal of honoring those who create art with love and passion is noble, but award shows must work harder to earn the attention of both glamorous movie stars and viewers at home. The intent of these ceremonies should be not only continuing to exist but also offering real respect and satisfaction for the creators of films and those who love watching them.

Categories: Opinions

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