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Award Shows: the American Staple That Deserves Longevity

Op-ed

In a time when influencers are invited to the Met Gala, rappers are given a feature on Disney theme songs at the Oscars, and the most critically/commercially acclaimed artists are more likely to get struck by lightning than win a Grammy, many viewers have turned their backs on glitzy award shows with claims of “fraud” and being “plain” and “boring”.

The first American celebrity award show took place in the Blossom Room of the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, California, on May 16, 1929. It was a dinner party, with its focus being the acknowledgment of America’s most talented actors and film crew members. Funded by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, it became known as the Academy Awards Ceremony. Thirty years later, America began holding the Grammys and many other entertainment ceremonies that followed suit in recognizing the best in entertainment.

Despite the rich culture associated with these award shows, many people are ready to let these socially irrelevant commemorations go. But, as focus shifts and many call for the removal of these gatherings that celebrate the worshipping of public figures, it is important to acknowledge the reason for the continuation of award shows as more than just a reason to dress up and take home a golden statue; and acknowledge the various reasons for the disapproval of the broadcasting of these shows.

Culture and History

Often, award shows blur the line between acclamation and artistic ability. However, one would be remiss to not acknowledge the reason for awards as the national staples that they are. Award shows are important to the people nominated as it is a physical memento highlighting their talent and dedication to their craft. Like a ribbon from the spelling bee and a trophy from a soccer game, humans are naturally infatuated with being the best and having a piece of evidence to mark that.

Also, the obsession with award shows correlates with the preoccupation with celebrity culture. “Who’s beefing with who?” “Who’s dating who?” “What was that person wearing?” “When is the next project coming out?” The devotion of one’s time and energy to a person that may or may not know that they exist is the sole reason award shows have survived this long. The lifespan of award shows would have dwindled years ago if it weren’t for people’s inclination to wonder or pore over every move their favorite celebrity makes.

Social Media

In a typical award show scenario, most award shows would attract an audience of anywhere between 30-40 million viewers. The 25 million viewers for this year's Oscars, however, is a disappointing outcome and declarative of the future that awaits award shows. It, also, appears as though award shows are receiving a similar amount of hype, but in a form they didn’t anticipate: social media.

According to Variety Magazine, the Grammys garnered 56.9 million engagements on social media and the tag #GRAMMYS was the number one hashtag throughout the broadcasting of the show. The medium for which fans are devoting their attention to award shows has changed. Instead of watching television, they are hearing about it via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, etc.

This same response to the broadcasting of important programs has been seen in how people hear about important news and events. According to the Pew Research Center, more than 86% of Americans receive their news from a smartphone, computer or tablet, compared to 68% saying they get it via television programs.

It continues saying that 52% of Americans prefer to receive their news on digital platforms (social media, news website, podcasts) compared to 35% who say they prefer to watch the news on television. It appears that it was only a matter of time before this way of seeking information trickled down into the way award shows and other television programs were being watched, as well.

Promotion

According to Michael Martin, the host for the 49th Annual Grammy Awards, “the Oscars are a big deal”, like the Grammys, to more than just the artists as it puts a spotlight on movies “[people] might otherwise skip”. For example, the critically acclaimed movie “Parasite” returned to theaters after winning Best Picture at the Oscars in 2020 and made an extra 8.8 million at the North American box office.

Jon Caramanica, music editor for Vibe Magazine, stated that artists “will see a spike in sales immediately after the Grammys” because of viewership and indirect promotion. Also, award shows, naturally, cultivate an environment of competitive energy. These events provide validation in the form of an increased number of distributed units. And due to the high likelihood of increased sales, artists continue to perform and send their music to award shows for nomination(s); furthermore, they depend on these award shows to boost their relevance, improve their livelihoods, and increase their income.

Fraudulent History

As it is understood by many, award selection is done via a voting process by members of the association panel or academy; however, this supposedly “fair” system has come into question by both fans and artists alike, with many artists making public statements about their frustration.

In 2020, the Weeknd offered a statement via Twitter showcasing his dismay with his lack of nominations labeling the Grammys as “corrupt” and saying “[the Grammys] owe [him], [his] fans, and the industry transparency…” Former One-Direction member Zayn Malik shared a similar feeling of dismay with the Grammys selection process stating that “unless you shake hands and send gifts, there’s no nomination considerations”.

It may seem as though these snubs are recent occurrences, but the widespread dismay at award selections traces back to when “The Color Purple” didn’t win any of its nominations in 1986, when Sarah Michelle Gellar never won an Emmy for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, and when Mariah Carey went 0 for 6 at the 1996 Grammys. Award shows in the past have also been labeled as discriminatory and racially biased.

According to Cardiff University’s Student Media Department, the 2022 Golden Globes was “possibly the most anticlimactic event in recent Hollywood history”. Due to the boycotting of its “whitewashed nominating committee” and “viewership hitting a thirteen-year low” many viewed it as uncompelling. According to Chauncey Alcorn of CNN, “38% of all artists on Billboard’s signature chart from 2012 to 2020” were African-American, “yet they received only 26.7% of top Grammy nominations during the same period”.

The lack of recognition for minorities and POC’s has created friction between devout fans and the nominating committees behind the awards. Heralded as “gatekeepers”, the selection committees have garnered award shows a bad reputation that can likely only be salvaged after a deep dive into the injustices inside a community that proudly boasts the honoring and equal treatment of other like-minded and like-talented people.

Conclusion

To sum up, award shows are important. Not important like a blood transfusion or important like a political decision, but important in the way that we consume media. The glamour associated with people living lives many can only dream of is appealing and keeps the dreamers dreaming. To many, seeing people live out their fantasies is a source of motivation in whatever field they as fans decide to pursue. These award shows are celebrations of creativity and art that deserve continuation as they provide entertainment, intrigue, acknowledgement, and, most importantly, fun for those who participate and those who watch.

Olivia C
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Olivia C is a writer from Tennessee. She is passionate about entertainment and social journalism and is incredibly grateful for the opportunity to write for The Teen Magazine.