This Sunday is the 400th or so Academy Awards, where we honor the best films of the past year in a stunning display of people reading names off of cards. It’s Hollywood’s “biggest night,” where everyone dresses up and pretends the winners are chosen solely by merit and not so the Academy can feel good about itself. Good times are had by all.
Now as a ceremony and celebration for those being honored and those in the industry, this is all fine. But why, exactly, is this something that is televised? Why exactly are we tuning in for four or five or ten hours just to find out the results we’ll inevitably disagree with? Why do we bring Billy Crystal out of stasis every five or so years to kind of sing his way through an awkward medley and make the 70 trillionth joke about how long the Oscars are? Is this some sort of yearly reminder that we are all actually living in purgatory?
The Oscars ceremony is pretty outdated. We no longer need it. The supposed point of watching, to see which movies win, can now be done by going to IMDB and looking at the list of winners. No longer does one need to sit through the hours of self-congratulating naval-gazing to get this information; you can go about your normal evening and refresh the Internet every half hour and BAM! There’s the info without having to watch Ellen try to awkwardly force selfies with people in the audience.
Once upon a time, the Oscars served the purpose of giving audiences a glimpse at their favorite actors and actresses outside of the movies. But once again, the Internet has neutered what appeal this used to have. We live in an age where celebrities have Twitter and Instagram with which they can engage with us common folk. Where the Academy Awards used to be our peek into the glamorous world of Hollywood, we now have social media and TMZ pulling back the curtain 24/7.
What about the entertainment value of the Oscars? There is some. Usually there is some kind of opening monologue or musical number, and performances sprinkled throughout, normally performances of whatever is up for Best Song. But with few exceptions (like when Cirque Du Soleil is called upon to perform), they tend to be relatively forgettable. If I asked you to name me your top five Oscar moments from the past decade (that had nothing to do with a particular person or film winning an award), I’d be genuinely surprised if you could get past two or three.
Obviously, people still tune in, though in fewer and fewer numbers. While the ratings for the ceremony have historically always fluctuated, they’ve been stuck in the 30-40 million viewers range since 2000. We hold it up as a tradition, but it is a tradition that makes less and less sense as time goes on. Like fruitcake or watching new episodes of The Simpsons. Everything that isn’t a winner being announced is just filler, and all the commercial breaks in the world won’t drum up any more suspense than the spinning pinwheel on your MacBook.
Maybe there is an appeal here that I’m just not seeing, which is entirely possible. I’m seemingly the only person on the Internet who doesn’t care about Deadpool, so it wouldn’t necessarily be a new thing. But it seems to me that the Oscars are stuck between wanting to be an awards show for the industry, and an entertainment show for the audience at home. And by trying to be both, they end up with something bloated and unwieldy. Something that feels like an obligation more than anything else.
I used to watch the Oscars every year in high school and college, until I realized I was doing it out of a sense of duty as opposed to anything else, checking the clock to see how late it was getting. I have a pretty good suspicion most people are in the same boat.
So maybe it’s time to just let the televised event fade away. Let the Academy Awards truly be a ceremony for the industry, and not a six-hour telethon where we watch other people get congratulated as part of decisions in which we play no part. After all, we have so much Netflix to binge and so little time. Let’s get our priorities straight.